There are certain monuments, buildings and statues that have come to define entire neighbourhoods and whole cities. The Eiffel Tower is just one such example, now epitomising the romance and grandeur of not only Paris, but all of France! The following statues may not be vast or even particularly valuable structures but they hold a much greater space in our hearts and imaginations than physical size or beauty could ever explain!
10. Nelson’s Column
Nelson has looked benignly over Trafalgar Square in London since 1843, when the commemoration to Admiral Horatio Nelson was placed, just in front of the new National Art Gallery. For the first two decades of its life the statue stood on its Corinthian column, without the famous lions for company. The lions were added in 1867, placed so as to be guarding the tall edifice. Originally, the column was meant to stand an impressive 62 metres tall, but this was reduced almost immediately to 52m due to stability concerns. Trafalgar Square is almost always packed with tourists, admiring the four brass panels at the base of the columns and swarming all over the immense and somewhat slippery lions that are a firm favourite with the children. It is quite hard to see Nelson himself, so do take along a camera with a good zoom feature so as to see the features of the man for whom the statue was erected.
9. Aphrodite of Milos
The Aphrodite of Milos is an armless statue of a beautiful woman; better known as the Venus de Milo. The statue was carved sometime between 100 and 130BC and has come to be held as a pinnacle of female beauty and grace. The statue was originally carved from six or seven separate blocks, all of which fit neatly together. The arms were already damaged and missing when the statue was discovered in 1820 although pieces of the left hand, holding a golden apple, were in the area. The statue can be seen today, gracing the halls of the Louvre in Paris, France, and it is possible to see traces of a filled hole in her right breast that would have originally helped to support the right arm. The importance and significance of the statue was deliberately overplayed by the French after they were bound to return another, complete statue, the Venus Medici, which had been looted from Italy by Napoleon Bonaparte. The propaganda ploy worked however, and the Aphrodite of Milos is now considered to be one of the most important statues in existence!
The Moai statues are also known as the Easter Island heads, being found on Easter Island in Chilean Polynesia. The statues are not actually only heads, but the heads are disproportionately big, taking up some three-eighths (or nearly half) the height of the whole statue. The confusion arose when explorers saw some of the standing Moai, which were sunk deep into the earth, with only the head and shoulders standing proud. The statues are believed to be physical representations of the Rapa Nui people’s ancestors, known as ‘aringa ora’ or ‘living faces’. The statues almost all face inland, and it is believed that this is to literally watch over the tribes as they live, work and play. Most of the Moai are carved from soft volcanic tuff and many of them show signs of erosion. However a few of the statues were carved from harder stone, like basalt, and these Moai have taught archaeologists and experts much about the ancient people that carved and placed the massive heads. You do not have to visit Easter Island to see a Moai, although seeing them in place, in vast numbers is a truly magnificent and moving sight, as is the quarry where it is possible to see huge unfinished statues, just lying and waiting for nature to reclaim them. There are Moai in Paris, London, Liverpool and Washington, so if you are passing through any of those cities spare a few moments to go and admire the skills and beliefs of the ancient people of Rapa Nui.
7. The Lincoln Memorial
Abraham Lincoln was one of America’s finest sons and even today still stands as one of the greatest statesmen in the world. His efforts to promote just one message, ‘All men are equal’ saw the abolition of slavery and began the slow and painful process of the civil rights movement. The memorial is styled to look like an ancient Greek temple which houses the immense figure of a seated and pensive Lincoln. The site looks down onto the reflecting pool and faces the Capitol Building. This unique and poignant site is all the more important for being the stage setting for Martin Luther King’s famous ‘I have a dream’ speech, a fact that has been commemorated with an engraving on the spot where he stood on that memorable day. As a symbol of hope for equality and a reminder of the standards to which we should all strive, the Lincoln Memorial is a beautiful and moving inspiration to us all.
6. The Motherland Calls
Seeing mere photographs of the magnificent Motherland Calls does not prepare you for the awe-inspiring sight of the huge statue. Measuring 87 metres from the tip of her sword to her toes she stands tall; only a little shorter than the Statue of Liberty. The statue was designed and created to commemorate the Battle of Stalingrad and was declared the largest statue in the world in 1967. She stands in the Russian city of Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad (a name by which the city is still known on six specific and important dates each year). Physically, the statue represents an amazing feat of engineering, being made from nearly 8000 tonnes of concrete with a tricky wire rope structure, especially given the position of the brandished sword and outstretched arm, summoning the children of the motherland. The model, one Valentina Izotova, still lives in the city and is often recognised as being the face and figure of the statue.
5. The Thinker
It may surprise many people to learn this, but there is more than one ‘Thinker’ out there! There are, in fact 28 large bronze castings of the statue, plus several smaller plaster models and some sculptures. The original piece was called ‘The Poet’, and was part of a much larger commission, a doorway surround called ‘The Gates of Hell’. The Poet in question is thought to be Dante, perched at the gates of hell and looking down into the stygian depths, pondering the fate of his soul. Workers at the foundry called the detail ‘The Thinker’, seeing a similarity to Lorenzo de Medici’s ‘Il Penseroso’, which inspired Rodin to reproduce the figure, larger, and as a separate entity. If you are determined to see the original, first casting, which is believed to be the only one made by the lost-wax casting method, you will have to travel to Louisville, Kentucky. The casting was exhibited at the St Louis Fair and then gifted to the city. The unique power of the statue, the stillness and contemplation captured alongside the impressive musculature of an obviously active mane continue to draw acclaim, with the statue featuring in movies like Night at the Museum 2 and even achieving its own Google Doodle!
The world famous 5-metre-tall statue of David was almost a very different piece altogether. As early as 1464 an immense block of marble was set aside to be used for a statue commemorating the biblical hero who slew Goliath, but the first two artists commissioned to work on the project got no further than forming the vague outline of a ‘giant’, roughing out the legs, feet and torso, but getting no further than that. Finally, the authorities, determined not to waste the time spent on procuring and moving the large block of marble, decided that the statue must be completed. Michaelangelo, at only twenty-six, was not the obvious choice, given that amongst his competition was Leonardo Da Vinci and many other notable artists of the day, but he persuaded the powers that be to give him the chance to prove himself. Within a month of being awarded the contract he set to work and devoted the next two years of his life to the project. He was somewhat hampered in his work, by having to operate around the work already done on the block, which explains why the statue is relatively narrow from front to back. The work was unveiled in the Piazza Della Signoria of Florence and was instantly acclaimed as an amazing work of art, a popular opinion that has changed little in the following five hundred years! The statue can be seen in Florence, where it holds a place in the hearts of the populace.
3. The Great Sphinx Of Giza
More than five thousand years old and still standing, the Sphinx, as the Great Sphinx of Giza is affectionately known, is something of a mystery. No-one knows who built the Sphinx or why, and any information or ‘facts’ about the monument are hotly debated. Although it is called a sphinx, after the creature in Greek myth, this name was only given to the statue some 2000 years after its construction. When referred to in ancient scrolls, the monument is called ‘Horus of the horizon’ – but again, references are few and far between! The statue has variously been thought to represent one or more of the pharaohs, Anubis, and to mirror, along with the pyramids and the river Nile, star configurations and constellations, but no single theory is every accepted as the whole truth for very long! Modern archaeologists believe that there are hollow spaces and tunnels beneath the structure, but they are not permitted to dig in the area for fear of damaging the Sphinx; just one more mystery about the creature that must remain unsolved although with the real reason for the Sphinx’s nose having been removed!
2. Christ the Redeemer
Poised atop the Corcovado Mountain, and standing tall, looking over the city of Rio de Janeiro is a 40 metre-tall statue of Jesus Christ, symbol of Brazilian Christianity and instantly recognisable in modern culture. Thought to be the largest Art Deco statue in the world, Christ the Redeemer was dedicated in October 1931. The statue is made from reinforced concrete dressed in attractive and durable yet easy-to-shape soapstone. The idea for a statue was seized upon by Brazilian Catholics who donated whatever they could afford to the statue, which was hoped to become a religious landmark. The statue’s great fame and recognisability has been aided by its use in many television shows, movies, cartoons and even video games. Apart from the impressive statue, which is worth seeing in person, you will marvel at the superb view from the top of the mountain, looking down on the busy and thriving city and far out to sea.
1. Statue of Liberty
The statue that greets immigrants and visitors arriving in New York by sea is called ‘Liberty enlightening the world’ as evidenced by the torch she holds aloft. The statue is a symbol of the freedom and opportunity offered by America to the dispossessed and discriminated peoples of the world, many of whom fled to America, desperate to live free and have their shot at achieving the American Dream. While the statue was designed and built in France and gifted to the people of America by that country, America was obliged to fund and build the pedestal upon which she stands. Joseph Pulitzer, the journalist who went on give his name to journalism’s most prestigious prize, ran an ad campaign to raise money to fund the pedestal. People responded in droves, sending what little they could, often less than a dollar, but in such quantity that the pedestal was soon paid for. The completion of the statue saw New York’s first ticker-tape parade and the elegant statue soon came be inextricably linked with the city of New York and the prospect of a new life. Within twenty years of being sited the statue lost her rather dull copper tones and picked up the verdigris tarnish that gives her the distinctive greenish colouration that she boasts today. While most people fly into the United States, the Statue of Liberty is still seen by visitors from all over the world in staggering numbers, up to 18.000 every single day of the year!