Battre le fer pendant qu’il est chaud

The Bartholdi Museum in Colmar, France celebrates the life of a larger-than life sculptor Auguste Bartholdi. He is probably most famous for Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbor, but most squares and parks in Colmar seem to feature one of his creations. The museum is located in the home he shared with his parents as an infant. His father died when he was two and his mother moved to Paris. He continued to identify closely with Alsace; he spent his summer vacations there and many of his most important statues pay tribute to local heroes and events. The museum has some rooms that are recreations of his home on the rue d’Assas in Paris along with scale models and documentation about his many sculptures.

The great Bartholdi statue, liberty enlighteni...

The top floor is dedicated to Lady Liberty, known as “Liberty Enlightening the World” to Bartholdi. He clearly had fond feelings for America. One of his other works is General Lafayette meeting General Washington, which stands both in Paris and Washington Square, New York. Bartholdi had heard of a plan to present the United States with a present to mark the centenary and he headed to his workroom to plan a fitting tribute. The museum shows much smaller scale models, photographs of the various production stages, and memorabilia from the inauguration of the French statue that became the iconic symbol of the United States. My favorite photo, above, shows the armature for a massive hand dwarfing the workmen around it.

Today’s expression, battre le fer pendant qu’il est chaud (batruh luh fair pehndehn keel eh show) means the same in French as it does in English, “strike while the iron is hot.” That certainly applies to Bertholdi. His massive metal structures were timely in terms of the historical events that were swirling around him. He responded to l’air du temps to create lasting art.

The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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5 Responses to Battre le fer pendant qu’il est chaud

  1. Pingback: Faire quelque chose contre vents et marées | One quality, the finest.

  2. Pingback: Mettre du cœur à l’ouvrage | One quality, the finest.

  3. Pingback: La Liberté Éclairant le Monde | One quality, the finest.

  4. Nemorino says:

    Sometime when travel is again possible I’ll make a point of going to Colmar (where I haven’t been for decades) and visiting this museum.

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