Gushing over green
Of all the notable things one can say about the world’s most famous bronze sculpture - the Statue of Liberty - her green pallor hardly tops the list. Yet this week The New Yorker magazine devoted fully four pages in praise of a pigment that was merely a chemical reaction to bronze when exposed to the atmosphere. The magazine’s staffer Ian Frazier touted the cast as “beguiling.” You have to wonder what he’d say about rust, which is also a chemical reaction to the elements.
Hands off the lady
Frazier claims his devotion to Lady Liberty’s complexion is shared by the public and cited an outcry in 1896 when the government considered painting over the metal that looked so mossy. But it could be argued that the public’s resistance to a make-over wasn’t love of the color at all. More likely, people wanted the sculpture to remain as-is in the same way they’d hold dear any object of affection that became timeworn. Perhaps Frazier would be less beguiled if he knew some of the unpleasantness associated with green. (More about that in a moment).
Who does she take after?
If you want to talk about notable aspects of the sculpture, how about the face? It’s generally understood that the model was a woman named Augusta, who was mother to the sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. But Elizabeth Mitchell theorized in her 2014 book “Liberty’s Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty,” that the model wasn’t a woman after all, but rather Bartholdi’s mentally-ill brother Jean-Charles. She came to this conclusion after studying photographs of the mother’s facial structure and noticing that her eyebrows and lips were thinner than that of the statue. And while poetic license is every artist’s prerogative, she knew Bartholdi’s reputation for accuracy and decided that Jean-Charles’ features were the better match.
What artists went without back in the day
As for using male models for renditions of females, it was a Renaissance tradition because the studio practice of women disrobing before male artists was frowned upon, and it was hard to come by those who were willing. Michelangelo female figure called “Night,” for example, modeled after the male form, has been described as a man with breasts.
The color of jealousy
Now about those negative associations with green: for one, it stands for the Emerald Isle’s struggle for Irish Independence from Great Britain. Not unexpectedly, in England the shade is linked with negative emotions, which may account for Shakespeare’s Iago in Othello characterizing jealousy as the green-eyed monster.
Green around the gills
But maybe the blackest association with Lady Liberty’s sage cast may be found in the 1973 film about a future world titled Soylent Green. The year is 2022 and the Earth has run out of food and a very overpopulated New York City is living on processed food called Soylent Green. The secret ingredient revealed at the end of the movie? Dead people. Still beguiled, Ian? #Buzz #Art