It was not straight out of a fairy tale like the subject herself but the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, Denmark was indeed modelled after two women. Really? Why?
Tourists seeing the sculpture for the first time would have mixed reactions. Some would be enthralled that they have laid their eyes upon Copenhagen’s most photographed icon. Others would seem unimpressed as if their expectations have been short-changed. “Is that all there to it?” they would ask. Love her or not and regardless of people’s reactions or viewpoints, there is a moving and tragic story behind this forlorn looking mermaid.
First of all, The Little Mermaid was a product of Hans Christian Andersen’s imagination, Denmark’s most prolific story-teller. The young mermaid lives under the sea with her five sisters. She rescued a prince from a sinking ship and fell in love with him. After being seduced by an evil witch, she gave up her voice in favour of having legs so she can be with her prince ashore. However, the mermaid will die should the prince marries another woman.
As fate would have it, the prince was forced to marry a princess from a different kingdom. Before the wedding, the mermaid’s sisters offer her a knife so she can kill the prince and she can go back to the waters. The mermaid did not stab her prince, the wedding took place and she died. She sacrificed her life. The poor mermaid chose martyrdom over revenge – what a selfless and remarkable character!
Mr. Carl Jacobsen, Carlsberg brewery’s head was so moved and enchanted after seeing the ballet version of The Little Mermaid. He commissioned the sculptor Edvard Eriksen to make a statue of the mermaid.
Nothing beats this undertaking by having a top model for the sculpture, no less than the prima ballerina named Ellen Price who played the heroine. However, she refused to model in the nude but allowed her head to be part of the sculpture.
Eriksen was in a predicament. He cannot do justice for the mermaid’s statue in a head bust only. It has to be the face and the whole body or he doesn’t have a mermaid! Lady luck smiled at him as his lady and wife, Eline willingly obliged to model for the statue’s body.
The bronze statue found a home on a rock by the waterfront in Langelinie harbour in 1913 and since then has become a symbol for Copenhagen.
So there you go, two women in one sculpture – Ellen and Eline. Amaze your friends on the statue’s behind the scene story and I am sure they would be impressed as much as I was.