Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi

Portrait of Sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, c. 1878

Portrait of Sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, c. 1878

Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi was born in 1834 to a wealthy Colmar family. From a young age he was drawn to the arts, winning his first sculptural commission at the age of eighteen. By the time he turned thirty-one, when Bartholdi attended Laboulaye’s inspirational dinner party, he was a prominent sculptor best known for his gargantuan, nationalistic public sculptures.

Bartholdi found himself looking for his next project and fixated on the notion of a neoclassical grand roman goddess. He sketched a woman, draped in robes, holding a torch above her head in 1869. Looking for support, Bartholdi took his drawings to Egypt, where colossal statuary has a long history. Bartholdi proposed his “Egypt Carrying the Light to Asia” for the entrance of the new Suez Canal. But Egypt’s ruler, Khedive Ismail, could not be tempted to commission the project.

Bartholdi returned home to France from Egypt near the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War, a conflict that resulted in the transfer of his native Colmar to Germany. After the German annexation of his Alsatian home, Bartholdi’s interest in Liberty and French republicanism re-ignited. In 1871 Bartholdi traveled to America, determined to garner support for a statue celebrating the two countries’ dedication to liberty and self-determination.

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