The Statue of Liberty has always been my favorite representation of American values. Her tablet, commemorating the date of our independence, and Emma Lazarus’ famous sonnet, New Colossus (affixed to The Statue’s base), which gave us the immortal phrase “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” defines the very best traits of our country.
As a bicentennial baby, I remember the 1986 copper penny drive to fund the restoration of The Statue to celebrate its centennial, and I even keep three models of Lady Liberty on my office window ledge (one 12-inch version was made shortly after the original was dedicated), along with a vintage fruit crate label featuring The Statue advertising California Bartlett pears.
More than a monument, The Statue is just a breathtakingly beautiful sculpture – given to the United States by France, the country considered America’s ‘First Friend.’ My love for this piece of art is one of the reasons the opening credits to my latest binge-watching addiction is so disturbing to me. The scene of an American fighter pilot crashing on the Eastern seaboard silhouetted on the face of The Statue of Liberty is one of the most striking images of The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime.
That’s why I stopped in my tracks a few months ago while passing through our Historical Americana department: There stood a 50-inch tall version of The Statue. It was in spectacular condition considering it is made of fragile terracotta.
The piece is stunning. Known originally as “Liberty Enlightening the World,” I learned the piece is actually a model that dates to about 1875 to 1882. What really put me over the edge were the words “Modele du Comité No. 37 Bartholdi” incised on the metal base. The words make direct reference to Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, The Statue’s sculptor. That’s when my heart really started pumping.
Diving into its history, I learned that prior to its completion and installation in 1886, The Statue was produced in various “reductions” aimed to raise money for the installation. I was actually looking at one of the original reduction models of The Statue of Liberty created just for that purpose. Amazing, right?
It gets better. Little did I know that the model had spent the last few decades right here in Dallas, where our corporate headquarters is located – not Paris, not New York, but Dallas, where its current owners cherished her and took excellent care of her delicate terracotta surface.
The working model of The Statue of Liberty comes up for auction May 13 in our Americana & Political Grand Format Auction held here in Dallas. You can bet I’ll be watching the live sale on HALive! when the piece crosses the block.