The statue of the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen Harbour is Denmark’s top tourist attraction, and therefore needs very little introduction. Based on the fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen, in which a mermaid falls in love with a human and chooses to give up her immortality for a chance at love, The Little Mermaid sits patiently on a rock beside the harbour.
The statue was commissioned in 1909, by Carl Jacobsen, son of the Carlsberg brewery founder, after he saw a ballet inspired by the fairytale and became enamoured with the story. He initially asked ballerina, Ellen Price de Plane, to be the model for the statue; however, she declined to pose nude so the statue is based on the sculptor, Edvard Eriksen’s wife, Eline, instead.
Unveiled in August, 1913, the Little Mermaid remained seated in the harbour for 97 years, before she took an international journey to represent Denmark at the World Expo in Shanghai. Even then, the Little Mermaid stayed on her rock, as it was cut away from the surrounding boulders along with the statue, and shipped to China. The decision to remove the statue from the harbour was contentious, but there has also been some discussion of permanently relocating her further out into the harbour to prevent further instances of vandalism.
Despite being a much-loved landmark, the Little Mermaid has twice been decapitated (plus a third attempt), had her arm cut off, and been blasted off her rock with explosives. She has also had paint tipped over her and been defaced in other ways. Each time, however, she is carefully restored to her original bronze glory, making use of the dozen or so approved (or at least tolerated) copies in existence around the world.
Much like the Mona Lisa, it is sometimes observed that the statue is smaller than she seems in pictures (although she is, in fact, slightly larger than life size), and all of the replica statues are smaller still. Eriksen’s directions in his will prevent any larger reproductions from being made.
Physical address: Langelinie Pier, Copenhagen Harbour
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