A solid new entry in Mann’s exemplary tour of the modern world’s architectural wonders (The Taj Mahal, 2008, etc.).
Even sticking to the basic facts, as the author does, the story of how Lady Liberty was conceived, constructed and bestowed makes a compelling tale. Pointing to the disparate long-term outcomes of the American and French revolutions to explain why the U.S. system of government became so admired in France, Mann takes the statue from Edouard Laboulaye’s pie-in-the-sky proposal at a dinner party in 1865 to the massive opening ceremonies in 1886. Along the way, she highlights the techniques that sculptor Bartholdi used to scale up his ambitious model successfully and the long struggle against public indifference and skepticism on both sides of the Atlantic to fund both the monument itself and its base. Witschonke supplements an array of period photos and prints with full-page or larger painted reconstructions of Bartholdi’s studio and workshop, of the statue’s piecemeal creation and finally of the Lady herself, properly copper colored as she initially was, presiding over New York’s crowded harbor. As she still does.
It’s not exactly an untold tale, but this new telling is worth the read. (measurements, bibliography, "The New Colossus") (Nonfiction. 10-13)