Lady Liberty

2008.Jul.31 Thursday · 0 comments

in Life

 The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”

– Thomas Jefferson

Replica of the Statue of Liberty in Barrancas

Buenos Aires – It’s one of those quirky little things that somehow or other doesn’t even register. I’ve wandered through the parque Barrancas del Belgrano (the Belgrano riverbank, which is what the site of this park used to be prior to 1892 when it was redesigned as a park by Carlos Thays, remember him from a few posts ago?) quite a few times, but just hadn’t noted the little grove of trees along the La Pampa side of the park, and the statue in their midst. Yes indeed, it’s a mini-replica of the Statue of Liberty – some local friends who live out that way mentioned it and so I went looking – not hard to find as it turns out. The replica is maybe 15-20 feet high, including the stone pedestal. It’s not the oxidized coppper blue-green that we’re used to (the original statue is composed of a steel framework with sheets of copper hammered in place over it); it’s more of a rust red, not surprising since it turns out it’s made of cast iron.

I’ve done a bit of digging, and there’s, not surprisingly, contradictory information out there. Some things aren’t in dispute – this replica was actually designed and cast under the guidance of the original designer, Frédéric Auguste Bertholdi, and was arranged to be brought to Buenos Aires by the French artistic foundation “Du Vall d’Osne”, whom are also responsible for many works of art and fountains throughout the city that were created by French artists and gifted to Buenos Aires at various points. As best I can determine, this was not the original intended site, though the information is a bit sketchy. In 1888 the construction of the new Palacio de Correos (Central Post Office) along Av. Alem in the Centro area was begun, though it was not completed until forty years later in 1928. The original plans called for the facade of the building (designed by French architect Norbert Maillart, who also designed the Palacio de Justicia, or Federal Courthouse, more commonly called the “Tribunales”; and the CNBA, or Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires) to be crowned by works of Bertholdi, replicas of his famous sculptures from other parts of the world, including the Statue of Liberty as its centerpiece. That never came to pass, as over the four decades the plans were repeatedly changed.

The data in the government online catalog is clearly incorrect – it lists the location of the statue as being Av. Berro between Av. Sarmiento and Av. Casares, which is essentially the back of the Japanese Gardens and part of the Plaza Sicilia end of 3 de Febrero Park. I took a walk along there, though I was fairly certain there was no Lady Liberty hidden away in a grove there, and indeed she’s not – in the center of the plaza, more or less, there is the workshop for the city’s Monuments and Artwork Department – where, since 1985, statues and such have been sent to be repaired – possibly at the time of the entry in the database the statue was in for its 1986 refurbishing. The data also indicates that the reproduction is 152 feet in height – not likely, that’s the height of the actual statue on Liberty Island in the Hudson River. Though I can’t find a date that the statue was originally placed in Barrancas del Belgrano, it’s likely it was right around the time of the park’s inauguration in 1892 or shortly thereafter, based on when Bertholdi would have been around, when the foundation was doing most of its work, and dates of some of the other statues in the park. The statue is clearly once again in need of at least a bit of cleanup as it is covered with graffiti.

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