Copenhagen's Little Mermaid

Europe - Editor - 19 April 2013

Copenhagen's Little Mermaid

Recognized world-wide as a landmark of Denmark, the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen's harbor is based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale of the same name. Measuring only 1.25 meters, the statue has an enormous presence and has been an iconic tourist attraction since it was unveiled on 23 August 1913. Danish ballerina and actress Ellen Price modeled for the bronze statue, which was created by sculptor Edvard Erikzen, but would not appear unclothed, and the sculptor's wife Eline was the model for the body of the Little Mermaid, as she had been for a number of her husband's artistic works.

While innocuous in itself, the statue has come to be seen by some as a figurehead representing the political ideologies of ruling authorities. For this reason it has been defaced and vandalized numerous times over the years since the mid-1960s. Some of the vandalism may have just been pranksters, but at other times the damage has been done to send a message. The head of the statue was sawn off in 1964 by members of the international group of revolutionaries known as Situationist International, including Danish artist, writer and situationist, Jorgen Nash. As the head of the Little Mermaid was never recovered, a new one was produced and the statue was repaired. In 1984, the statue's right arm was cut off, but later returned, and in 1990 a second attempt to decapitate the statue failed, leaving a deep cut it its neck. A further attempt to cut the statue's head off was successful in January 1998. The head was later returned anonymously and reattached, with the reason for the decapitation never discovered.

In September 2003, an explosion sent the statue into the harbor's waters, damaging parts of the mermaid. She was repaired and returned to her spot, where in 2004, protesters against Turkey's bid for inclusion in the European Union dressed the statue in a burqa, and in May 2007 she was dressed in Muslim dress and scarf. At other times, the Little Mermaid has been doused in paint, each time being restored to her original state, where she is visited by an estimated one million visitors each year.


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