Thursday, November 11, 2010

Venus seated by the sea: The Little Mermaid and Girl in a Wetsuit

Den lille havfrue (1913)

HMS asked us recently if the pose of the statue of Andromeda by Takanen link was inspired by the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen or whether indeed, it had any classical antecedents. We are not aware of any classical statues in this pose; most Greek and Roman figures being sculpted standing. I suppose the short answer is that there are only a certain number of poses a girl seated on the ground can adopt.

Edvard Eriksen (1876-1859)

The original Little Mermaid was commissioned by Carl Jacobsen, the son of the founder of Carlsberg, after he saw a theatrical version of the Hans Christian Andersen story in a Copenhagen theatre.

Ellen Price (1878-1968)

It was sculpted by Edvard Eriksen who modelled the figure’s head on the Danish prima ballerina Ellen Price and, because the dancer refused to pose nude, the body on his wife Eline.

Eline Eriksen (1881-1963)

It was unveiled in 1913. In fact, the much vandalised statue, which sits on small rock close to the sea wall just down from the ferry terminal, has always been a copy. The original version is kept by the family in secret. It is still a copyrighted piece; Eriksen’s family sell authorised copies of it for large sums of money and woe betide anyone who tries to copy it without their permission.

Elek Imredy

It was this issue which saw the development of Vancouver’s similar Girl in a Wetsuit statue. A Vancouver lawyer, Douglas Brown, discussed with the Hungarian sculptor Elek Imredy (1912-1994) about commissioning a copy of the Little Mermaid to sit atop a particular boulder off the northern shore of Stanley Park.

Girl in a Wetsuit prior to installation

Much to Imredy’s satisfaction the application to produce a copy was turned down by Eriksen’s heirs in Denmark, allowing Imredy to come up with a similar but different sculpture. His girl looks out towards the ocean to emphasise its importance to the city. Surprisingly, given that it is very much a part of the scenery in Vancouver today, it was not universally popular when it was unveiled in June 1972.

Girl in a Wetsuit (1972)

Having seen both many times (these are both Triple P's photographs) we have to say that we prefer Imredy’s sculpture; partly because it has a more spectacular setting compared with the rather dreary industrial backdrop which The Little Mermaid suffers from.

The Little Mermaid in Shanghai this year

Over the last few months, The Little Mermaid, for the first time, left her rock and was transported to Shanghai to sit in the Danish pavilion during Expo 2010.  Only today the Mayor of Copenhagen said that she had arrived back in Denmark and will be back in place on 20th November,

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