The Little Mermaid (statue)

Den lille Havfrue

( The Little Mermaid (statue) )

The Little Mermaid (Danish: Den lille Havfrue) is a bronze statue by Edvard Eriksen, depicting a mermaid becoming human. The sculpture is displayed on a rock by the waterside at the Langelinie promenade in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is 1.25 metres (4.1 ft) tall and weighs 175 kilograms (385 lb).

Based on the 1837 fairy tale of the same name by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, the small and unimposing statue is a Copenhagen icon and has been a major tourist attraction since its unveiling in 1913. In recent decades it has become a popular target for defacement by vandals and political activists.

Mermaid is among iconic statues that symbolize cities; others include: the statue of Pania of the Reef in Napier, Manneken Pis in Brussels, the Statue of Liberty in New York and Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.

 
Ellen Price as the Little Mermaid, Royal Danish Ballet, 1909.
 
Assembly of the Little Mermaid statue (Copenhagen, Langeline, 1913).

The statue was commissioned in 1909 by Carl Jacobsen, son of the founder of Carlsberg, who had been fascinated by a ballet about the fairytale in Copenhagen's Royal Theatre and asked the ballerina, Ellen Price, to model for the statue. The sculptor Edvard Eriksen created the bronze statue, which was unveiled on August 23, 1913.[1] The statue's head was modelled after Price, but as the ballerina did not agree to model in the nude, the sculptor's wife, Eline Eriksen, was used for the body.[1]

The Copenhagen City Council arranged to move the statue to Shanghai at the Danish Pavilion for the duration of the Expo 2010 (May to October), the first time it had been moved officially from its perch since it was installed almost a century earlier.[2][3] While the statue was away in Shanghai an authorised copy was displayed on a rock in the lake in Copenhagen's nearby Tivoli Gardens.[4] Copenhagen officials have considered moving the statue several meters out into the harbour to discourage vandalism and to prevent tourists from climbing onto it,[5] but as of September 2022 the statue remains on dry land at the water side at Langelinie.

Vandalism
 
Police technicians examine the damage to the statue after being blasted off its base on September 10, 2003.

The statue has been damaged and defaced many times since the mid-1960s for various reasons, but has been restored each time.

On April 24, 1964, the statue's head was sawn off and stolen by politically oriented artists of the Situationist movement, amongst them Jørgen Nash.[6] The head was never recovered and a new head was produced and placed on the statue.[6] On July 22, 1984, the right arm was sawn off and returned two days later by two young men.[6][7] In 1990, an attempt to sever the statue's head left an 18 centimeters (7 in) deep cut in the neck.[6]

On January 6, 1998, the statue was decapitated again;[7][8] the culprits were never found, but the head was returned anonymously to a nearby television station, and reattached on February 4. On the night of September 10, 2003, the statue was knocked off its base with explosives and later found in the harbour's waters. Holes had been blasted in the mermaid's wrist and knee.[9]

Paint has been poured on the statue several times, including one episode in 1963 and two in March and May 2007.[7][10] On March 8, 2006, a dildo was attached to the statue's hand, green paint was dumped over it, and the date March 8 were written on it. It is suspected that this vandalism was connected with International Women's Day, which is on March 8.[6][5][11] The statue was found drenched in red paint on May 30, 2017 with the message "Danmark [sic] defend the whales of the Faroe Islands", a reference to whaling in the Faroe Islands (an autonomous country in the Kingdom of Denmark), written on the ground in front of the statue.[12][13] About two weeks later, on June 14, the statue was drenched in blue and white paint. "Befri Abdulle" (Free Abdulle) was written in front of the statue, but it was unclear what this referred to at the time. Later, police said the writing was likely referring to Abdulle Ahmed, a Somalian refugee who has been detained in a high security unit in Denmark since 2001 due to a custody sentence.[14][15] On 13 January 2020, "Free Hong Kong" was painted on the stone the statue is mounted on by supporters of the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests.[16] On 3 June 2020, in the wake of the George Floyd protests and Black Lives Matter movement, the statue was vandalized with the words "racist fish" scrawled on its stone base,[17] which left observers and specialists puzzled, as nothing related to the statue, H.C. Andersen or his fairy tale could be construed as racist.[18]

Although not regarded as vandalism since no damage is done to the statue, people have also repeatedly dressed it, either for fun or to make more serious statements. In 2004, the statue was draped in a burqa in a protest against Turkey's application to join the European Union.[19] In May 2007, it was again found draped in Muslim dress and a head scarf.[20] Other examples are times where a Christmas hat has been put on the head, or it has been dressed in the jerseys of the Norwegian or Swedish national football teams (especially the Danish and Swedish teams have a highly competitive rivalry).[16]

^ a b "The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen Harbor". Copenhagen Pictures. Archived from the original on November 28, 1999. Retrieved August 17, 2008. ^ "Travelling Little Mermaid to resurface in Copenhagen by video". The Independent. Agence France-Presse. April 30, 2010. Archived from the original on June 18, 2022. Retrieved December 30, 2012. ^ "Maid in China". Jyllands-Posten. The Copenhagen Post. September 11, 2008. Archived from the original on October 15, 2013. Retrieved December 31, 2012. ^ "The Little Mermaid statue in Tivoli Gardens in 2010". Mermaids of Earth. November 27, 2012. Archived from the original on May 25, 2014. Retrieved May 25, 2014. ^ a b "Denmark may move Little Mermaid". BBC News. March 30, 2006. Archived from the original on March 30, 2007. Retrieved December 31, 2012. ^ a b c d e "Kopenhagens Nixe: Alter schützt Meerjungfrau nicht vor Rabauken" [Copenhagen Mermaid: Age does not protect Mermaid against vandals]. Der Spiegel (in German). JOL/Deutsche Presse-Agentur. August 17, 2008. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved December 31, 2012. ^ a b c Den Lille Havfrue reddet fra gramsende turister Archived March 20, 2012, at the Wayback Machine (in Danish). Jyllands-Posten. Published August 1, 2007. Retrieved February 1, 2012. ^ "Feminists claim responsibility for statue attack". BBC News. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016. Retrieved May 25, 2010. ^ Little Mermaid's unexpected swim Archived February 22, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, BBC News, September 12, 2003 ^ Little Mermaid statue vandalized. - Yahoo! News. Archived copy from July 12, 2007. Retrieved March 30, 2012. ^ "Little Mermaid defaced with paint, dildo" Archived November 25, 2016, at the Wayback Machine Mail & Guardian March 9, 2006. ^ Jenkins, Aric (May 30, 2017). "Little Mermaid Statue in Copenhagen Drenched in Red Paint". Time. Archived from the original on May 31, 2017. Retrieved May 30, 2017. ^ "Denmark's Poor 'Little Mermaid' Vandalized Again". NBC News. May 30, 2017. Archived from the original on November 11, 2020. Retrieved October 7, 2019. ^ "Denmark's Little Mermaid turns blue and white after latest vandalism". The Local. June 14, 2017. Archived from the original on June 14, 2017. Retrieved June 14, 2017. ^ Wisbech, S. (June 15, 2017). "Abdulles pårørende: Vi tager afstand fra hærværket på Den Lille Havfrue" (in Danish). Politiken. Archived from the original on June 18, 2017. Retrieved January 13, 2020. ^ a b Batchelor, O. (January 13, 2020). "Den Lille Havfrue udsat for graffiti-hærværk" (in Danish). DR News. Archived from the original on January 13, 2020. Retrieved January 13, 2020. ^ "Copenhagen's Little Mermaid labelled "racist fish"". Reuters. July 3, 2020. Archived from the original on July 6, 2020. Retrieved July 4, 2020. ^ Ritzau (July 3, 2020). "Forsker efter hærværk: Jeg har svært ved at se, der skulle være noget specielt racistisk ved Den Lille Havfrue". Politiken. Archived from the original on June 22, 2021. Retrieved July 20, 2020. ^ Darin, Johan (May 20, 2007). ""Den lilla sjöjungfrun" kläddes i burka". Kvällsposten (in Swedish). Archived from the original on October 13, 2012. Retrieved December 31, 2012. ^ Danish Mermaid Statue Given a Headscarf Archived April 16, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, Associated Press, May 21, 2007
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