It looks like one of the most iconic monuments in the United States of America might have a different origin than we all thought.
HBO’s new documentary, Liberty: Mother of Exiles circles around the history of the Statue of Liberty. The statue, which is often referred to as “Lady Liberty,” is an iconic figure for New York City and for the entirety of the USA. The statue was originally gifted to America by the French as a way of commemorating their alliance during the American Revolution. The statue then became a symbol for freedom and new opportunity in the 20th century, as the monument was the first thing seen by many immigrants sailing into the country.
But now, it appears that there may be more going on with the creation of the statue than the general populace ever knew. Documentary director Randy Barbato recently shared with Salon one of his favorite theories about the iconic monument. Namely, he said, “You know, there’s a rumor [the statue’s] Bartholdi’s brother.”
The theory is still fairly new, as writer Elizabeth Mitchell is credited for establishing it in 2016. She was exploring the idea that the statue was based after sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s mother when she saw that family photos presented a different idea.
“As I was looking at it more carefully, the structure of the face isn’t really the same. [His mother] has a more arched eyebrow, has a thinner nose, has thinner lips, even in her youth,” she told the New York Post at the time. “And he was a bust-maker…and was known for his accuracy.”
“Going through photos he had in his files of his brother, I started to look at the face more carefully, and it really did look to be like Liberty. His brother in his adult years had actually gone mad, and it was Bartholdi’s task to go once a week to visit, sometimes [spending] hours just staring at his brother, who was not speaking.”
But as interesting as that possible story is, does that mean the Statue of Liberty is a big drag queen (as some media sources are stating)? Probably not, but it’s a funny idea to play with.
At the very least though, it’s an interesting idea to think that the figure recognized around the world, and so connected to the American consciousness, could be vastly different in its origin than we ever believed. Now, if only we could find out for sure.