Liberty, maternity, commodification

Summer 1988

Marking the centenary in 1986 of the Statue of Liberty, Silverman looks at the statue in terms of Baudrillard’s idea of ‘symbolic exchange’ and gifting, its appropriation as a powerful symbol in its own right, and its various inspirations and possible ‘authors’: Frederic Bartholdi, the sculptor who made it, Gustave Eiffel, who created the internal structure that allows visitors to go inside, the painters Delacroix and Daumier, and the writers Courbet and Hugo, the magazine proprietor Joseph Pulitzer, who helped to raise the funds to erect the statue, and Emma Lazarus, whose famous poem has become synonymous with it,. Silverman considers issues of female anatomy in relation to both sculpture and its internal structure, and questions surrounding who the model for Liberty was: Bartholdi’s mother, the more sexualised Liberty of the French Revolution, or a prostitute known to the sculptor?

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