A new statue in Senegal has been causing a stir this week (read this CNN article for more). The 164-foot copper structure (which features a man, woman, and child with arms outstretched) has been criticized for everything from its expense to being the product of the Senegalese president’s self-indulgence.

Yet it is not the first statue to receive widespread attention for its dramatic back-story. A number of statues around the world have become tourist destinations because of their creator, height, or history. From the multitude of online lists ranking the most popular or tallest statues around the world, I picked out a few sculptures that I would like to see someday (along the lines of my post from a few weeks ago about quirky buildings worldwide).

The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen

Photo courtesy of http://www.VisitDenmark.com

1. The Little Mermaid. Inspired by the popular Hans Christian Andersen children’s story, the mermaid has sat curled in the harbor of Copenhagen, Denmark, since her creation by Danish sculptor Edvard Eriksen in 1913. But the lady has not led a peaceful life: she has been the victim of vandalism, three decapitations, and an attempted drowning in 2003. (Time your visit carefully: According to The Daily Mail, the mermaid will leave her home for the first time in 100 years to visit the World Expo in Shanghai from May to November this year).

2. David. Michelangelo’s contemplative interpretation of the Biblical figure took three years to complete and, according to ItalyGuides.it, the sculptor continued to work on the piece even after it was revealed to immediate acclaim in Florence’s Piazza della Signora in 1504. The statue was moved from its original location to the city’s Academy Gallery in 1872 to protect it from the elements (a copy was put in its place). The success of David is said to be what inspired the Pope to invite Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel.

Photo courtesy of the China Culture Center

3. Great Buddha at Leshan. There are innumerable Buddha figures around Asia, but this 71-meter-high statue has a unique claim to fame as the largest carved stone Buddha in the world, according to Touropia.com. The serene figure occupies an entire hillside of the Sichuan Province in China, and its construction took nearly 100 years, beginning in 713 AD during the Tang Dynasty. The Buddha’s giant fingers are about 11 feet long, and its bare feet are each large enough for 100 people to sit on.

4. The Statue of Liberty. Although it is right here in the U.S., our 105-foot-tall statue, created by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, represents an international friendship. A gift from France for America’s centennial celebration in 1876, this symbol of democracy and freedom raises a torch covered with 24k gold, holds a tablet inscribed with “July 4, 1776,” and stands upon the broken shackles of oppression, according to StatueofLiberty.org. Her iconic green color is actually the natural weathering effect of her copper covering, which is less than the thickness of two pennies.

Photo courtesy of http://www.RiodeJaneiro.com

5. Christ the Redeemer. Now, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and funded entirely by donations, this 120-foot-tall statue was designed by Brazilian Heitor de Silva Costa, and created by French sculptor Paul Landowski in 1931. A symbol of Catholic devotion and Brazilian hospitality, the figure stands with his arms outstretched 2,300 feet above Rio de Janeiro on Corcovado Mountain. According to FamousWonders.com, the statue was struck by lightning in 2008, but emerged unscathed because its top layer is soapstone, which is a good insulator.

6. Great Sphinx of Giza. Named by the Greeks after their own mythical character, this half-lion, half-human statue is thought to be about 4,600 years old and was probably commissioned by Pharaoh Khafre, according to PBS Nova Online. Carved from a single block of limestone left over from the construction of the pyramids, this sculpture is the largest monolith in the world and was somehow made without modern machinery. As for the Sphinx’s missing nose? According to Ancient Egypt Online, one pervading myth claims that it was destroyed when Napoleon’s men used it for target practice.

See more awe-inspiring art around the world during one of the Learning Abroad Center’s Global Seminars. Experience the creative arts of Ghana or learn how art and culture in Florence, Italy, gave rise to the Renaissance!

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