Frederic Auguste Bartholdi
Statue de la liberté, 1875
Zinc, height. 43.8 cm, signed, dated and inscribed on the base : Bartholdi, 1875, Registered in Washington, August 31st 1876, 9939-C, D 77, Avoiron Paris
Provenance: Private collection, France
New York Public Library, Exhibition Hall, June 21, 1986 to August 30, 1986, another cast exhibited.
Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, October 28, 1986 to February 1 1987, another cast exhibited.
Related works : Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, Liberty, a bronzed terracotta, height: 121.3 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, gallery 556, donated by Julia Neuville Adams Aubry in 1999, n. 1999.491.
Liberty: The French-American Statue in Art and History, p.97, n.196 illustrated four times in colour, front, back and the two profiles (pl. a, b, c & d), another cast illustrated.
Collectif et Comité officiel franco-américain pour la célébration du centenaire de la statue de la liberté, LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ/ l'exposition du centenaire, musée des arts décoratifs, Paris, 1986, p.107, n.196, ill. on three sides & p.141, ill. in colour, n.196, another cast illustrated.
Christie's, Special Centennial Exhibition / IMAGES OF LIBERTY / Models and reductions of the Statue of Liberty 1867-1917, Christie's New York, January 25 - February 15, 1986. P.14 - 15, fig. 15, ill, another cast illustrated.
Le Quotidien de Paris, n°2183, November 28, 1986, p.34 cited, another cast.
As a sculptor, Bartholdi depended for his livelihood largely on public commissions for sculptured works. Chiefly commemorative monuments throughout France, with a few in this country, they may be identified with countless others by his contemporaries in their commonly shared, academically inspired artistic vocabulary. For Bartholdi, Liberty was not a commission but a passion, all-consuming of his energy, time and especially of his personal finances. Bartholdi spent his time confined to work at home, apart from trips to the United States; the first in 1871 when Bartholdi recognized at once the small island in New York harbor as his preferred site for Liberty, the second for the Centennial in 1876, and a third ten years later for the statue's inaugural. Work included not only pursuit and execution of public commissions but embraced as well the year-in, year-out struggle to see to completion what he regarded as the single most important project of his life.
Parallel to the construction of the statue of Liberty but unrelated as either preparatory studies or as models utilized in the process were reproduced casts made in France principally for public sale. Apart from the Modèle du Comité, reproduced by Bartholdi himself, casts in metal representing the serial reproduction of the statue by a commercial foundry were made beginning probably in 1878. As one of two foundries in Paris in which documented casts of Liberty were produced, Avoiron et Cie. was the only foundry to reproduce the statue in cast for direct sale, and the only one with which Bartholdi had a contract.
Avoiron's production of Liberty in serial casts can be traced with certainty to 1878 when one of two models displayed on either side of the full-scale head of Liberty on view at the Exposition Universelle is in photograph unmistakably an Avoiron cast. Casts of the statue were made by the firm in four sizes with the largest, probably the first to be produced in series, based on Bartholdi's four-foot Modèle d' étude. In what quantity casts in each size were made, and for how long they continued in production are unknown. Inscriptions, both those in the mold-and therefore in each model cast from the mold-as well as those cold-stamped after casting offer evidence that production was considerable, with the likelihood that as many as three hundred or perhaps more in the largest size alone were eventually reproduced.
Beginning at least by 1878, Avoiron had a contract with Bartholdi which ended in the fall of 1886; whether production continued until the contract's end or was concentrated in the earlier years is impossible to determine. Casts of Liberty in full figure by Avoiron are distinguished from casts by other founders, including those made in America as well as in France, by their distinctive self base which is circular rather than square. Moreover, they were the only casts produced with a United States copyright number and date included as part of the inscription on each model.
Cast in zinc and electroplated in copper, with inscriptions including code letters and foundry name cast in the mold, Avoiron's models present a variety of numerals all of which were cold-stamped after each cast was removed from the mold. Individual numbers that follow a cope letter may be assumed to represent the particular model's place in sequence of casting, with the further assumption that Avoiron began production with Bartholdi's four-foot modéle d' ètude which he inscribed with a code letter “A”. At the same time, Avoiron reproduced models in reduced versions marked “B” and “C” and "D" reductions made by mechanical means since they conform in scale of reduction to the technical limitations of the Collas machine; and all four sizes were doubtless in production more or less during the same period.
Around one hundred pieces similar in size of our model may have been cast but only 2 are currently known today. The other exemple is missing the flame and one arm. Our model is the only exemple in excellent condition.