Throughout time, statues have been built to represent hundreds of nations and towns, or to honor religious beliefs, freedom, war or politics. Statues have also been used to represent abstract ideas such as freedom, liberty, knowledge, and art. Two well-known statues that incorporated both abstract ideas and colossal proportions are the Statue of Liberty of the United States of America, and Mother Russia of Russia. The use of visual propaganda in Russia and the United States generated widespread nationalism for each country, and the Statue of Liberty and Mother Russia are seen as national icons.
The origins of the Statue of Liberty have roots in the political climate of France and the United States during the mid 1800s. The idea of the statue is attributed to two men by the names of Edouard-Rene Lefebvre de Laboulaye and Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. Laboulaye and Bartholdi decided to offer a gift to the United States from France to show their alliance with the nation, in hopes that it would “proclaim the supremacy of republican ideals.” (Weisberger, 25). During the 1870s America was getting over a devastating civil war, while France was in the midst of a bitter tragedy. Republican ideals were a major theme of the period following the regime of Napoleon and the United States Civil War. Emperor Napoleon III was lured into war with Prussia over an attempt to place Leopold of Hohenzollern on the Spanish throne. Unfortunately, Napoleon and his men were captured. With the capture of Napoleon, the “new” republic of France took control of the political scene. Many people were uncertain about the new republic’s stability in a war-torn country. In turn, France looked to another country, whose republican government had survived, the United States. The Statue of Liberty represented France’s feeling of admiration for the United States.
During the American Civil War, French support was important to maintaining the Union. One French supporter of the Union was Laboulaye. In France, Laboulaye continually praised the United States and its Declaration of Independence. France’s “sister republic” was advancing towards freedom and stability, two traits that France previously lacked. The United States was about to celebrate its centenary, and Laboulaye wanted France to celebrate with them. One night in 1865, the idea of a gift to the United States was born. Laboulaye was hosting a dinner where the renowned sculptor Fredric Auguste Bartholdi was present. Bartholdi became very excited about the idea because he had always dreamed about building a colossal statue. By giving a gift to America, Laboulaye hoped to solidify the friendship between France and the United States. The statue would celebrate one hundred years of American freedom and Franco-American friendship. The monument would be named Liberty Enlightening the World.
The man to take the job of creating a huge monument was, of course, Bartholdi. He claimed that the statue would symbolize the goodwill France felt towards the United States. Bartholdi felt that the statue should be a joint effort from both countries. Bartholdi was going to embark upon something he had always wanted to achieve and it was the perfect time to make his dreams come true. It was the golden age of iron and creative engineers such as Gustave Eiffel, John and Washington Roebling. In the last years of the nineteenth century, many nations held world fairs to show each other their industrial accomplishments. A huge demand existed for art that demonstrated symbolism, idealism, and political ideas. Political iconography was widely used to represent the United States. One well-known icon is Uncle Sam, who inspired a nationalistic outlook among citizens in the U.S. around WWI. Bartholdi wanted to be a part of this “new era” of industrial achievements, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Brooklyn Bridge. Bartholdi decided to visit America in order to gain a feeling for the culture of the country.
On June 8, 1871, Bartholdi left his homeland of France and set sail for America. He made an agreement with Laboulaye to write about his impressions of America. Bartholdi also hoped to inspire funding for the monument in the United States. In a letter to Laboulaye, Bartholdi described his arrival to the new world:
Bartholdi visited America during a peak time. America was full of new ideas, new innovations and was rapidly expanding its territory. As soon as Bartholdi arrived in New York harbor, he realized that his monument should be placed there for all to see. In the same letter, he wrote about the perfect spot for the statue:
“The image presented to the sight of a passenger arriving in New York is splendid, when, after some days of voyaging, the pearly dawn of a marvelous morning reveals the magnificent scene of these great cities [New York and Brooklyn], these rivers stretching as far as the eye can see, festooned with masts and steamboats…when one awakens in the midst of that interior sea covered with vessels which swarm like a crowd in a public square” (Weisberger, 28).
"I've found an admirable spot. It is Bedloe's Island, in the middle of the bay. I've made a little drawing of the work, as it would look emplaced there. The island belongs to the government; it's on national territory, beloging to all the States. just opposite the Narrows, which are, so to speak, the gateway to America" (Weisberger,28).While in America, Bartholdi traveled all over country, to old cities like Philadelphia, Boston, and newer cities out West: Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, San Francisco. It was a time when America had great energy and was moving at a fast pace. Nationalistic ideas overwhelmed the country and Bartholdi could not have picked a better time to visit the United States. By the time he returned to France, Bartholdi had experienced American culture and had found his inspiration for the monument.
The political iconography is present in almost every aspect of the statue. Bartholdi had a good idea of what the statue would look like and already decided that a torch would be in her hand. Laboulaye and Bartholdi both thought it was important to explain the reason of the torch, since some might misinterpret it as a symbol of setting fire and both men did not want political views to be misconstrued. The flame was meant to symbolize giving light. It was one of several iconographic elements in the statue that were conservative. In a speech by Laboulaye, he explains the meaning of the statue:
“The statue is well named; she is truly liberty, but American Liberty. She is not Liberty with a red cap on her head and a pike in her hand, stepping over corpses. Ours, in one hand holds the torch, no, not the torch that sets afire, but the flambeau, the candle-flame that enlightens. In the other, she holds the tablets of the law….This statue, symbol of liberty, tells us at one and the same time that Liberty lives only through Truth and Justice, Light and Law. This is the Liberty that we desire, and that will remain forever the emblem of the alliance between America and France.”(Weisberger, 34)Laboulaye explained the meaning of the statue because many statues and visual propaganda in France depicted images of people with Phrygian bonnets and showed the abstract idea of “liberty” walking over dead bodies. Most artwork during this time period encouraged political ideology. Other dynamics of the statue, such as the crown, have been used in various representations of France, Liberty, and the Republic since 1848. The idea of the crown originated in ancient times when emperors used crowns with rays to represent the sun. Another influence on Bartholdi was the ancient Colossus of Rhodes. One explanation for Bartholdi’s choice of the crown comes from a Masonic belief about the sun. One Masonic assertion is,
“the Great Architect of the Universe has given the Sun to the world to enlighten it, and Liberty to sustain it”(Weisberger, 46) The seven rays on the crown represent the seven seas and seven continents. The twenty-five windows in the crown symbolize the twenty-five gemstones found on earth (Weisberger, 47).Political ideology was not the only purpose of the Statue of Liberty, however; slowly but surely “Liberty Enlightening the World” was taking shape through Masonic beliefs and conservative torches.
The first phase of construction depended on a joint effort from both countries to raise money for such a colossal statue. Since Laboulaye had a good reputation in the United States, Bartholdi wanted him to announce the start of a fund-raising campaign. The idea of the statue had to be sold to France and the United States. The Statue would be easily sold since both nations were becoming world leaders and thrived on patriotism. To raise money for the statue, France held various forms of entertainment and collected public fees.
In the United States there was a different view about raising money for the pedestal of the statue. While there was a great deal of support in France for the construction of the statue, its American supporters were well behind in working on the pedestal. Americans were not as ambitious about the statue as Bartholdi had hoped. Despite the setbacks in donations the construction of the pedestal began. The engineer who took the task of building an immense pedestal was General Charles P. Stone. The task of building a large pedestal and breaking the ground on Bedloe’s Island was more difficult than Americans had anticipated. Below the island were bomb shelters that had to be broken up and leveled. When construction finally began in America, more bad news arrived from Paris; the driving force behind the project, Edouard de Laboulaye, died on May 25, 1883. Despite the bad news, construction did not stop. The cornerstone of the pedestal was laid on Bedloe’s Island on August 5, 1884. On October 28,1885, the Statue was unveiled in New York. Bartholdi had achieved his dream, and the United States welcomed the statue with a massive celebration and parade. New York City declared October 28th a holiday and invited every resident to share in the celebration. President Cleveland announced that he would be present at the ceremony. New York buildings were transformed with French and American colors and flags. Despite the objectionable weather, the day marked a new friendship between France and The United States (Weisberger, 68-78).
Another renowned statue that is as remarkable as the Statue Of Liberty is Mother Russia. Both statues represent freedom and embody each of their countries. During the 1900’s Russia used visual propaganda to represent icons of Russia and used political posters and monumental sculptures as figures of freedom and liberty (Bonnell, 68). Mother Russia can be found at the top of Mamayev Kurgan, where she is the main monument of a memorial complex to those Soviets who fell in World War II. She represents the Motherland, or Russia.
The history of the memorial
complex dates back to the Battle of Stalingrad. This battle went
on for two hundred days and nights, from July 17, 1942, through February
2, 1943. The Battle of Stalingrad was the first time in history that
such a large group of troops was encircled and completely destroyed.
The Soviet Army was trying to defeat the Nazis. They succeeded, and
the battle is considered the turning point of World War II. The Nazi
troops lost a total of 1.5 million soldiers and officers, up to 3,500 tanks
and offensive guns, over 3,000 aircrafts and 12,000 guns, mortars and other
weapons. The victorious battle brought international prestige to the Soviet
Union and brought respect to the Soviet people. During the battle,
the Germans controlled
the northern, southern, and western slopes, and the top of the hill was
a huge focal point of the battle. The hill was a terrible battle
scene, and considering the location of the hill, which is almost in the
center of the city, control of the hill was crucial. Some facts about
the battle explain the devastation that took place on top of the hill:
“the ground was littered with fragments of mines, bombs and shells from
500 to 1,250 per square meter. In each handful of earth there were seven
to eight pieces of shrapnel. In spring of 1943 no grass grew on the Mamayev
Mother Russia was constructed to commemorate the Battle of Stalingrad. She is explained as “a mother standing guard over her country, her raised sword threatening to destroy any who dare to invade her land, and calling on her sons to follow her example” (www.eden.com). She is placed perfectly at the top of hill in the center of the city of Stalingrad, now known as Volgograd. Mother Russia was designed by sculptor Yevgeni Vuchetich and was finished in 1967 by Leonid Brezhnev. In order to construct the memorial and huge statue, more than one million cubic meters of earth were moved and twenty thousand cubic meters of concrete were laid, and twenty-five thousand tons of metal were used. The total square footage of the memorial complex is sixty-five thousand square meters. The name of Mamayev Hill came from the invasion of the Mongols. Over one hundred troops used to stand at the top of the hill to keep guard and protect the capitol of Sarai Berke Khanate. These men were devoted to Khan Mamai and were his personal-body guards before they were picked to protect the capital from invasion. (www.Eden.com).
Mother Russia and the Statue
of Liberty are enormous statues, but to understand their colossal proportions
one would have to visit them. However, Mother Russia surpasses any full
human figured statue. Mother Russia is fifty-two meters high
and is made from concrete. Altogether, but not including the platform
that the statue stands on, 5,500 tons of concrete and 2,400 tons of metal
units were used in constructing the monument. The Statue of Liberty
is only 151 feet tall from the base to the torch, and weight of the copper
is 62,000 pounds. The sword on Mother Russia is made from stainless steel,
tons and is twenty-nine meters long. The right arm of the Statue
of Liberty is only 12.8 meters long. An innovative aperture
is placed in the sword blade to reduce wind resistance. Winds up to fifty
miles per hour cause the Statue of Liberty to sway three inches.
The scarf that hangs from Mother Russia weighs 250 tons. Mother Russia
is placed on a base, and she is only fixed to the base by her own weight.
The platform is over two meters thick and the foundation that the platform
rests on is sixteen meters high. At night the statue is illuminated
with floodlights. Mother Russia
also known as Motherland or The Motherland is Calling, is the largest statue
of a full human figure ever made. She rises 270 feet from her feet
to the tip of her ninety-foot long stainless-steel sword, overlooking the
city of Volgograd, which is almost twice the size of the Statue of Liberty.
The Statue of Liberty has three hundred and fifty four steps, and her index
finger is only 8 inches long compared to Mother Russia’s sword which is
twenty-nine meters long. Mother Russia is an enormous statue of a
woman holding a gigantic sword and is given the utmost respect in her country.
The political iconography of Mother Russia or the use of a female figure in Russian propaganda was seldom used before 1920. Although religious icons, such as the Mother of God, had a significant position in Russia and images of mythical female figures were used in folk art. However, visual political propaganda of Mother Russia was targeted during the reign of Lenin, Stalin, World War I and World War II. Many political artists emphasized Russian nationalism, and many of the posters and monuments represented abstract ideas of freedom and liberty. During World War II images of Mother Russia flourished and a number of posters used the traditional image of Mother Russia, which was a distinguished, matronly woman sometimes holding a child in her arms (Bonnell 256). The abstract idea of freedom through propaganda of Mother Russia and the Statue of Liberty expressed nationalistic beliefs of Russia and the United States. Both of these statues demonstrate through propaganda how powerful and idolized a statue can become when represented with a political background.
In conclusion, both the Statue
of Liberty and Mother Russia are considered two of the most famous statues
in the world. The history of each statue is remarkable, along with
the engineering that took place to create such gigantic monuments.
The stories behind each statue bring together each individual country.
Both the statues represent a patriotic feeling and portray to other nations
how mighty and significant the two countries are. Statues have been
used around the world to represent different nations, but the Statue of
Liberty and Mother Russia surpass any other statues. Both are portrayed
as national icons and are depicted in numerous propaganda. The iconography
of the statues is contributed to the political propaganda used to uproot
nationalism within each country. The political goal behind the Statue
of Liberty was for France to show its alliance with its “sister republic.”
However, the Statue of Liberty is now seen as a national symbol of freedom.
The vision of Mother Russia is portrayed throughout time to represent Russia
as a whole. The statue represents loyalty and devotion to the motherland.
The Statue of Liberty and Mother Russia uniquely represent each nation
and symbolize patriotic inspiration.