Desired and despised – the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen

In the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018, the main focus is on the major cultural monuments, such as those on the UNESCO World Heritage List in Europe. In ETHeritage we are honouring the International Year with a series of loose contributions on rather small-format city monuments and sculptures in public space. The series begins with the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, photographed here by Comet photographer Hans Gerber, who stopped in the Danish capital on his way through Lapland in September 1958.

Meerjungfrau Kopenhagen

Hans Gerber: Photographers and the Little Mermaid, September 1958 (Com_L07-0131-0002-0007)

The bronze statue of the Little Mermaid was created in 1913 by the Danish artist Edvard Eriksen. The figure is based on the fairy tale of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen and is regarded as the symbol of Copenhagen. Like other iconic statues in urban spaces, such as the Statue of Liberty in New York, the Mermaid attracts flocks of photographing tourists.

Desired by tourists – scorned by vandals

Ironically, what people photograph is “just” a copy of the original sculpture. According to Wikipedia, there are thirteen more copies scattered around the world. The copyright on the statue will expire in 2029 and since 2012 copies authorized by the Eriksen family can be purchased over the Internet. The heirs also watch over the secret location of the original. Eriksens original has been beheaded twice already, once in 1964 by a group of artists of the Situationist movement and in 1998 by unknown assailants. Countless other acts of vandalism, some of them politically motivated, followed, which finally led the authorities to erect a copy.

Kleine Meerjungfrau, Kopenhagen

Hans Gerber: At the Little Mermaid, September 1958 (Com_L07-0131-0002-0006)

 

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