FORGOTTEN HISTORY: Why did France give the US the Statue of Liberty?
Before we dive into where you can find the replicas of the statues in France, here is a little background history.
Liberty Enlightening the World (La Liberté éclairant le monde), better known as the Statue of Liberty (Statue de la Liberté) is one of the most iconic monuments in the US and the world.
France offered the statue to the United States as a gift to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and to celebrate the alliance of the two countries formed during the French Revolution.
Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor from Alsace known for creating large-scale sculptures, was commissioned to design and build the statue. Bartholdi called upon Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, designer of the Paris Eiffel Tower to create the skeleton and internal structure of the statue made of iron pylon and steel.
Did you know?
- The statue of liberty was built in Paris, then disassembled into 350 pieces and shipped to the U.S. in 1885
- It took nine years to construct lady liberty 1875–1884
- The Statue of Liberty was officially unveiled on Liberty Island on October 28, 1886.
- The seven points on the lady of liberty represent the seven continents
- She measures 305 feet and 1 inch tall (roughly 20 stories) and weighs 225 tons (450,000 pounds).
- The Statue of Liberty faces South-East. It was strategically placed in this direction to act as a welcoming symbol for the ships entering the harbour.
- The address of the Statue of Liberty is “New York, NY 10004, USA.”
Check out the new 100 million dollar Statue of Liberty Museum, which opened on May 16th, 2019. It’s located directly behind the statue on Liberty Island.
Statue of Liberty map
I created this google map with the exact locations of the 35 replicas in France. If it doesn’t display correctly in your browser, you can see it here
The Six replicas of the Statue of Liberty in Paris
There are six replicas on of the statue of Liberty in Paris. The rest are scattered throughout France.
1- Paris: Musée des Arts et Métiers
Inside the main hall of the Musée des Arts et Métiers (Métiers Art Museum), you’ll see a 286 cm (2.86-metre) or 9ft 5in tall prototype of the statue of liberty (a 1/16 scale prototype). This particular statue was bequeathed to the museum by Bartholdi’s widow. There is a second replica at the museum, but you have to head outside to see it. (explained below #2).
2- Paris: Musée des Arts et Métiers
Head to the square outside the museum, and you’ll find a bronze copy of the statue. One of 12 originals commissioned by the museum which use an original mould created by Bartholdi.
292, rue Saint-Martin – Paris
Métro: Arts et Métiers (line 3 or line 11)
3- Paris: Musee d’Orsay
1, rue de la Légion d’Honneur – Paris
Métro: Solférino (line 12) or RER C station Musée d’Orsay
Replica moved to the museum d’Orsay from Luxembourg gardens after 2011
On the ground floor of the Musée d’Orsay in the 7th arrondissement is a 3-meter tall bronze statue of liberty commissioned by Bartholdi himself in 1889, which he subsequently exhibited in Paris at the Universal Exhibition of 1900.
At the time, there were no works by Bartholdi in the Luxembourg museum, so he sold the statue to the Luxembourg museum for the cost of the casting alone. In 1905, almost a year after Bartholdi’s death, his widow suggested they place the statue outside in the Luxembourg gardens where it stood for nearly 115 years from 1906 to 2011 before being transferred to the Musée d’Orsay. Source, Musée d’Orsay website.
4- Paris Jardin du Luxembourg
Métro: Saint-Placide (line 4). Access from rue Guynemer
In the 6th arrondissement of Paris, is the Luxembourg Garden (Jardins de Luxembourg), one of the most visited parks in Paris for both tourists and locals. Currently owned by the French Senate, the garden was initially created by Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France, at the beginning of 1612 for a new residence she constructed, the Luxembourg Palace.
The large garden is populated with over a hundred statues, monuments, and fountains, all scattered throughout the grounds. On the northeast corner of the Luxembourg Gardens, one of those statues is a lesser-known replica of the Statue of Liberty which you can find near the Rue Guynemer entrance. The original statue commissioned by Bartholdi stood here from 1906 to 2011 but is now on display at the musée d’Orsay. The one currently in the gardens is a replacement approved by the French Senate.
5- Paris: Île aux Cygnes (Isle of the swans)
The most famous and visible replica of the statue of liberty.
Located in the 15th arrondissement of Paris near Pont de Grenelle on the river Seine is an uninhabited artificial island called Île aux Cygnes “Island of the Swans” or “Swan Island. This 850 metres long (half a mile),(11 metres wide), (36 ft.) island is popular with joggers, families and people just taking a stroll. It’s also the location of one of the most well known and visible replicas of the statue of liberty. This replica measures 11.50 metres (37 ft. 9 in.) high and weighs 14 tons.
While the statue of Liberty in New York was gifted to the US from the French, this one was gifted to France from the Americans. The inscription on the tablet in her left-hand bears the inscription V Juillet 1776 and XIV Juillet 1789, recognizing the American Independence Day and the French Bastille Day
Métro: Javel (line 10) or Bir Hakeim (line 6)
You might be interested in learning about Bastille DayFrance’s Independence Day vs. American Fourth Of July Explained
6- Paris: Place Michel Debré
A quirky and tiny replica.
1 Rue du Cherche-Midi
Métro: Saint-Germain-des-Prés (line 4) or Sèvres-Babylone (line 12)
In the 6th arrondissement at Place Michel Debré, located at the corner of Rue de Sevres and Rue Cherche Midi is a 5-metre tall bronze Centaur statue (the mythological half-man, half-horse). Created by French artist Cesaris in 1985 for the French Ministry of Culture to pay homage to Picasso. It is done in the Nouveau réalisme (New realist) style where artists take everyday items and incorporate them into their works of art. For example, Cesaris used a shovel and rake for the centaur’s tail. And if you look closely at the Centaur’s chest, you’ll see a miniature replica of the statue of liberty.
Replicas of the Statue of Liberty throughout the rest of France
There are many more replicas of the Statue of Liberty in France including a 12-metre high version in Colmar in the centre of a roundabout, a replica that used to be on the bow of a boat and a few that were seized by Nazis in World War Two (and replaced many years later).
In alphabetical order
This replica of the statue of liberty is standing on a cement block in the parking lot of a strip mall in Albi France. Not much information about it exists, so I have no idea why or who put it there. It’s most likely a cheap reproduction placed there for marketing reasons.
8- Barentin Statue of Liberty
This resin replica of the statue of liberty in Barentin France was originally made for the 1969 film The Brain ( Le Cerveau), a French comedy directed by Gérard Oury. She now stands on a small mound made of dirt and grass at the centre of a roundabout “Carrefour de la liberté.” She measures 3.5 m tall and weighs approximately 3.5 tons.
At the Castle of Blérancourt Franco-American Museum, there is a small terracotta replica of the statue of liberty which dates back to 1885, the year before the official inauguration of the New York statue of liberty, supposedly created by Bartholdi himself.
The original replica of the Statue of Liberty in Bordeaux at place Picard was melted by the Nazi’s for its precious metal and removed for its symbolism. Its replacement, the one that is currently standing in the square, is made of a resin and is now dedicated the victims of 9/11.
Erected in 1926, this replica of the statue of liberty, located across the street from an elementary school in Cambrin, was dedicated to the memory of 26 children from the town who died for France during the War.
***a signed casting from Bartholdi
Near the city of Limoges France, in Chateauneuf La Forêt is another replica cast by Bartholdi himself
13- Chaumont Air Base of Chaumont-Semoutiers.
Located 3KM southwest of Chaumont is the Chaumont air base, (renamed Quartier Général d’Aboville), a French Army artillery base in France. Built in the 1930s, it’s home to the 48th fighter bomber wing, renamed the “Statue of Liberty Wing” on July 4th, 1954 and remains the only U.S. Air Force unit with both a name and a numerical designation.
After the name change, the wing’s comptroller discovered the factory that produced the actual Statue of Liberty was only 25 miles from Chaumont and the original moulds still existed. The factory agreed to cast a three-meter replica of the statue for $1,700. Money raised by The wing by raffling off a 1956 French Ford Versailles sedan. You can read more about this forgotten airfield.
****The replica in Cléguérec situated as the centrepiece of a fountain at Place Pobeguin was inaugurated in Septembre of 1882 but was cast in 1875 which predates the American statue of liberty in New York (1876 – 1886). It’s most likely an original cast from Bartholdi’s mould.
Colmar is the birthplace of Auguste Bartholdi.
The 12-metre high resin statue of liberty was created to commemorate the 100th-anniversary of Auguste Bartholdi’s death.
Colmar is also home to the Bartholdi Museum. Go ahead and take a virtual 3D tour of the Musée Bartholdi and head up to room three on the second floor to see the terracotta replicas of the statue of liberty. There were supposedly 200 terracotta replicas stamped “Modèle du Comité” and signed by Auguste Bartholdi himself (supposedly to partially help fund the building of the actual statue of liberty).
Gourin is a small town in the Morbihan department of Brittany in north-western France. The people of this region are very proud of their Celtic heritage, and many of their old customs and traditions are still alive and well. Gourin is also known as the origins of many French people who emigrated to the United States and Canada during the first part of the 20th century in search of a better life in America. The area lost over 3k residents in several waves. The most notable was when the Michelin factory south of New York was recruiting people from the region of Brittany.
Standing in the main square opposite the town hall is a white replica of the Statue of liberty, offered to the town In 1990 by Air France to thank the many emigrants who made the trip across the Atlantic with Air France. Colmar is also the sister city of Princeton.
17- Lugné: in Cessenon-sur-Orb
Lugné is a hamlet (a small settlement smaller than a village) where you’ll find a resin replica made by the Musée Bartholdi de Colmar (the birthplace of Bartholdi ). What sets this replica apart is that it used to be on the bow of a plushy yacht, Maxim’s des Mer. Pierre Cardin designed the ship’s interior for Jean Miguel, in the style of the famous Maxim’s restaurant which Cardin owned. (Jean Miguel was a famous singer in France from Switzerland.°
The story behind how the statue ended up on the bow of a boat is interesting.
Back in the late 80’s “Maxim’s des Mer” was a 180-foot luxury commercial yacht with 16 luxury suites prominent on the Cote d’Azur. It slept 32 people who were willing to pay $4,200 to $5,900 per person in one of the 16 double occupancy rooms for a one-week cruise in the lap of Art Nouveau luxury.
It had a piano bar, casino, boutique, massage room, hair salon, outdoor pool, Jacuzzi, stained-glass windows and famous French chefs to prepare meals served to guests in a huge dining room on red velvet chairs. (source)
Back in 1986, for the 100th anniversary of the statue of liberty, “Maxim’s des mer” brought over an original plaster mould of one of the Statue of Liberty ears on loan from the Bartholdi museum in Colmar France. The birthplace of Bartholdi. The museum also made a copy of the statue of liberty for the bow of the boat.
While in the New York Harbor, she became an exclusive affair for celebrity bashes during the party of the century, Liberty Weekend, a four-day party thrown in honour of Miss Liberty and the centennial 4th of July festivities. The boat attracted celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Esther Williams, Kirk Douglas, KennyRogers and Lorne Green. Rockers ZZ Top played for close to 400 stars and fans on board. (source). Robin Leach even filmed an episode for his iconic television series Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous on the boat.
After the event, the statue was removed, but no one wanted to purchase it, so the captain of the ship, Albert Abélanet from Lugné decided to save her. He purchased her and picked her up from storage somewhere in France with his vehicle. source. Unfortunately, the boat Maxim des Mer is dead in the water somewhere in Italy.
You can visit the statue on rue de la statue in Lugné France, the home town of Albert Abélanet. Remember, she’s been around top celebrities.
18- Lunel: Statue of Liberty
Not far from where I live in Montpelier is a town called Lunel. I accidentally stumbled upon this replica of the statue of Liberty when I drove there to meet a friend for lunch. There she was just standing in the middle of the intersection off of the D424E to which runs through the town.
The statue was initially erected in 1889 to commemorate the 100th — anniversary of the French revolution. Unfortunately, like so many other bronze statues, the Nazi Germans melted her down for her precious metals.
For the 200th anniversary of the French revolution, the town erected a replacement statue, thanks to the many donors whose names are in a chest in the base of the pedestal where she stands. She measured 2,8 meters tall and weighs 500 kg
In Lyon, at the Musée des beaux-arts, there is a miniature terracotta version of the statue of liberty.
In the eastern part of France, in Montagnat, there’s another replica of the statue of liberty which you can see driving along the route national 75. Not much information is available. It’s probably a cheap imitation made for another hotel chain.
If you drive along the D32 road of Gruissan in Narbonne, you’ll see a small gravel driveway with a wood sign that reads “Materiaux anciens” where you can sell and buy used building materials like sculptures and fountains. Right next to the sign is yet another replica of the statue of liberty.
The statue used to be at the entrance of the hotel Liberté (now port hotel) and was probably sold off as part of a liquidation sale.
The 1.35 M, 80 kg replica of the statue of liberty in Nice France is located on the Quai des Etats Unis where she stands tall as she watches over the sea. Purchased in 2011 by the municipality for 110 630 euros, she was installed in February of 2014.
In the centre of a roundabout in the town of Ourville-en-Caux, stands a 6m blue replica of the statue of liberty. According to the cities official website, someone purchased the replica second hand from the Noctuel hotel chain and installed it on their property. It was then auctioned off twice until it was purchased from a few companies in Ourville who later donated it to the town. And voila!
In the small village of Plaintel, Normandy France is one of the kookiest replicas of the Statue of Liberty I’ve ever seen. It was carved with a chainsaw from a tree trunk by Normand Gérard Farhuel at the 10th annual lumberjack competition held on July 6th, 1996. The organizer of the event donated the wood replica the town so that everyone could enjoy it. It now sits at the centre of one of the roundabouts in the town, but I was unable to locate its exact location. (Source).
26- Ploreren: Statue of Liberty Replica
This white replica of the statue of liberty in the city of Ploeren sits at the end of the driveway of a land yacht company called “Seagull chars à voile.” It measures 7 metres tall and can be seen by commuters along the N165 (Nantes-Brest expressway), many of whom stop to take selfies in front of lady liberty.
The story behind this white statue of liberty is that in 1989, Jean-Philippe Krischer, le director of “Seagull chars à voile” saw the statue at a nautical sports trade show in Paris at the Nacra booth (an American importer of Dinghies), who bought it from the liberty hotel chain for 30k franks. Jean-Philippe eventually purchased the statue from Nacra for an undisclosed sum. (source)
27- Poitiers: Statue of liberty
This replica of the statue of liberty is located in Poitou France at “Place de la Liberté.” It was donated to the city in 1903 by a Freemason Lodge (loges maconniques de Poitiers et de Neuville). Did you know some people believe Francois Mitterand, ex-president of France who commissioned the pyramid at the Louvre was a 33 Degree Freemason Of The Grand Orient Lodge?
28- Roybon: Statue of liberty
****An original created and signed by Bartholdi
In 1906, Auguste Bartholdi himself gave his friend Mathias Saint-Romme an exact signed replica of the Statue of Liberty which is dedicated to Mathias’s father, Henri-François Saint-Romme (one of many distinguished persons of the Second Republic in the department of Isère).
29- Saint Affrique
The original statue of liberty erected in 1889 for the centennial anniversary of the French revolution was removed and melted by the Vichy regime for the Nazis. Multiple efforts failed to replace the statue until 2006 when André Debru, a local metal artist, created his unique wrought iron version of the statue of liberty.
30- St Cyr-sur-Mer
****Signed by Bartholdi and inaugurated in 1913.
In the heart of the village Saint-Cyr sur–Mer at Place Portalis is a golden replica of the statue of liberty and one of a handful of original models signed by Bartholdi himself. A wealthy landowner (Anatole Ducros) offered the statue to the town to commemorate the first public water supply. The exciting thing about this reproduction is it’s covered in a fine layer of gold.
31- Saint-Étienne: Statue of Liberty
In Saint-Étienne France, at Place Jules Ferry (corner of Rue Chefeul and Rue du Onze Novembre), near the university Jean-Monnet, there’s a replica of the Statue of liberty often surrounded by skateboarders. *it’s a great place to skate. Commissioned by the mayor, Jean Neyret and cast by Val d’Osne art foundry in 1915, the largest art cast iron maker in France at the time.
The replica of the statue of liberty in Saint-Martin-de-Nigelles is on private property and is visible from the road at the intersection of Chemin aux Boeufs and Chemin du bois d’Olivier. Sometimes you can see a polish and American flag hanging from the two flagpoles behind the statue.
In Soulac-sur-Mer, the bronze replica of the statue of liberty that stands along the Atlantic ocean is staring out towards Ellis Island. The city purchased the bronze replica back in 1980 from Arthus-Bertrand, a famous maker of medals and decoration who worked with Bartholdi on occasion. The exact origins of why the statue was in his possession are unknown. One theory is that it is one of the statues the Nazi’s tried to melt but somehow was salvaged and ended up in the hands of Arthus-Bertrand.
In front of the Europe Hôtel is another blue replica of the statue of liberty. It’s clearly made for marketing purposes.
Salvatore Dali designed the replica of the statue of Liberty at the Vascoeuil Castle in Vascoeuil France. Supposedly, Salvatore was enamoured by the work of Bartholdi. His version has lady liberty holding two torches with both arms raised like she’s cheering at a sports game or maybe V for victory.