Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid (and no, she’s not named Ariel)
If you think of one archetypal image of Copenhagen, it’s probably going to be the famous statue in the harbor of a mermaid. It’s just a tiny thing, standing at 1.25 meters, but it’s big news in the tourist industry. Her likeness has been plastered on everything from thimbles to teacups and towels to soap. If you want a little mermaid, you can get replicas at every size you can imagine.
There’s no denying that it’s a lovely sculpture, and in an isolated view, quite stunning. But the problem is that you can’t view her alone, the context is everything. She’s not very far out into the harbor – it’s only about a foot of water between the shore and her particular rock. When we were there two little girls were climbing all over her, much to the frustration of every tourist trying to get the perfect picture.
The official name of the statue in Danish is Den lille havfrue, and she was created by the sculptor Edvard Eriksen in 1913. The character of the little mermaid is based on a Hans Christian Anderson tale. The status has only been moved once in the nearly 100 years since it was placed (when it was moved to Shanghai for the 2010 World Expo – Alex could have seen it while he was there!).
Unfortunately the statue has become a bit of a target for vandalism, and the Wikipedia entry contains a long list of events where she’s been painted, decapitated, maimed, and attacked, all for various causes (or none at all, in some cases).
Like most tourists, I was pretty disappointed with the Little Mermaid. While lovely, she’s just too small, and the other people take over the scene so you don’t get the same sense of serenity that the status is obviously experiencing. It’s almost like she’s in a different world than I am – whereas I prefer my art to take me into that world as well.