The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, Denmark
The most famous mermaid statue of them all, with a number of copies around the world, is the statue of The Little Mermaid from Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, sitting on a rock at Langelinie in the harbor of Copenhagen, Denmark. The statue had its 100 year anniversary on August 23 2013, with celebrations in Copenhagen and around the world. Map
The mermaid statue was created in bronze by Edvard Eriksen, and was unveiled in August of 1913.
Eriksen was commissioned in January 1909 by Carl Jacobsen of Carlsberg Breweries to create the statue. Carl was fascinated by a ballet at the Copenhagen Royal Theatre based on the fairy tale about the mermaid, and asked the star of the ballet, Ellen Price de Plane, to model for the statue. Price declined modeling in the nude for the sculpture, and Eriksen enlisted his wife Eline Eriksen (who modeled for several other of his works) to model for the mermaid statue. A popular story has it that Price modeled for the face and Eline Eriksen for the body, but in actual fact Eline Eriksen was the model for the entire sculpture. This is easily seen when comparing the statue’s face with photos of Eline Eriksen, and the faces of Eriksen’s other statues.
This mermaid statue is one of the top tourist attractions in Copenhagen, and has become an icon and a symbol of both Copenhagen and Denmark. While the story by Hans Christian Andersen was more than enough to make this mermaid statue known around the world, the Disney movies have only added to the fame and the appeal of this statue.
There are copies of the statue – with some differences – in a number of locations around the world, which in some cases are authorized by Eriksen’s heirs, and in other cases have been allowed to remain without specific authorization from the heirs.
The mermaid statue on display in Copenhagen is the actual original, but other copies and sizes were made as well – which is a good thing, as the original has been vandalized several times, and then lovingly restored using the copies. Several sizes are available for purchase at the official website for this most famous of all mermaid statues.
While the statue is often seen as being smaller than expected, it is actually larger than it appears, about 25% larger than lifesize. The spectacular location and the grand features of ocean, harbor and shoreline around the statue contribute to make it look small in comparison. The original statue here is the only true copy of the statue in this size – according to sculptor Edvard Eriksen’s will, only smaller copies may be produced, with Copenhagen Harbor having the only full-size statue.
It is interesting to note that the statue of The Little Mermaid was sculpted by Edvard Eriksen as a twin-tailed mermaid, whereas the fairy tale by Hand Christian Andersen describes the mermaid as having a single tail – a fish tail. While most mermaid statues are of the one-tail variety, there are quite a few twin-tailed mermaid statues as well.
Copenhagen is one of the nation capitals with a mermaid as its icon.