The Woman Behind the Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty is one of the most iconic monuments in the United States, symbolizing freedom and democracy. But do you know who the statue was modeled after? Let's explore who she was and how she was chosen to be the inspiration for the Statue of Liberty.

Bartholdi's First Design

The Statue of Liberty was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who first developed the idea for the project in 1865. Initially, Bartholdi proposed a colossal statue to the Egyptian government that would overlook the Suez Canal. His proposal was to create a massive monument, with a woman's body symbolizing progress and a man's face representing an "enlightened ruler" of the day. The design featured two giant arms holding a torch, visible from both sides of the canal.

Unfortunately, the Egyptian government rejected his proposal, and Bartholdi had to move on to another project. Despite this setback, Bartholdi's concept of a massive monument honoring progress and enlightened leadership would remain at the core of his next design.

Bartholdi's Second Design

After his initial design was rejected, sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi went back to the drawing board to come up with a new design for the Statue of Liberty. This design was much different from the original and included some modifications that we are still familiar with today.

The most noticeable change was the arm holding the torch. Bartholdi replaced the spear with the current torch-bearing arm, and the flame was changed to the seven-pointed symbol, which is based on a Roman Catholic design. Bartholdi also reinforced the statue's base, as he worried it would be too heavy for the existing foundation to support. Finally, Bartholdi placed a tablet in her left hand with the date of July 4, 1776, inscribed on it, representing the Declaration of Independence.

The new design was approved by France and the United States and is the design we know today. It took Bartholdi another 10 years to finish the statue, but in 1886 it was officially dedicated. Since then, the Statue of Liberty has become one of the most recognizable symbols of freedom in the world.

Who Was the Statue of Liberty Modeled After?

Isabelle Eugenie Boyer in Profile

Bartholdi's first working design for the statue was of a woman dressed in classical robes, standing atop a pedestal surrounded by broken chains. This design represented the end of slavery and the beginning of freedom. However, this design was rejected by the French government, which deemed it too political.

Bartholdi then began to explore different ideas for his design. He soon discovered a woman named Isabella Eugenie Boyer, the wife of a wealthy French banker. Bartholdi asked Isabella if he could use her features as the basis of his design, and she agreed. The statue was then modeled on Isabella's face and body.

Though Isabella was never officially credited as the model for the Statue of Liberty, it has been widely speculated that she served as the inspiration for its design. It is likely that Bartholdi chose her for her beauty and grace, which are reflected in the final design.