Denmark now has two little mermaids. The famous continues.

ASAA, Denmark – On a blustery day last week, Danish holidaymakers Tina Pedersen and Jens Poulsen posed for photos next to a mermaid stat...


ASAA, Denmark – On a blustery day last week, Danish holidaymakers Tina Pedersen and Jens Poulsen posed for photos next to a mermaid statue. In some ways, the sculpture looked familiar: Perched near a harbor, the mermaid rested the weight of her bare chest on one arm and gently draped her pool tail over a rock. Yet Pedersen and Poulsen were not in Copenhagen; they were on their way for a beach vacation across Denmark.

“We heard on the radio that the ‘The Little Mermaid’ estate demands that it be destroyed,” Pedersen said. “So we thought we better come see him while we still can.”

The mermaid that has been watching over the harbor in the village of Asaa, in northern Denmark, since 2016 is not an exact replica of the monument in the Danish capital. But for the heirs of Edvard Eriksen, the artist who sculpted the Copenhagen statue, the mermaid Asaa bears too much a resemblance. They took legal action, demanding not only financial compensation, but also the demolition of Asaa’s sculpture.

“When I first received the email, I laughed,” said Mikael Klitgaard, the mayor of Broenderslev, the municipality that includes Asaa. “I thought it was a joke.”

But the Eriksen estate is not kidding. He has a long history of zealous protection of his license rights to the image of the sculpture, which depicts a character from a story by Hans Christian Andersen. Reached by phone, Alice Eriksen, the artist’s granddaughter and supervisor of the estate, declined to comment. “The case is ongoing,” she said.

Lawyers on both sides are still negotiating, but if the case goes to court, the decision will likely depend on the resemblance of Asaa’s mermaid to the one that has been sitting in the port of Langelinie in Copenhagen since 1913, when the tycoon of brewery and philanthropist Carl Jacobsen presented it to the city as a gift. This sculpture, which is one of Copenhagen’s most visited tourist attractions, is made of bronze and features a little mermaid resting her weight on her right arm while carefully tucking her tail to the other side.

Carved from granite and weighing three tons, the mermaid Asaa is more plump and her facial features coarser. His posture, however, is the same.

“How else is she going to sit down?” asked Klitgaard, the mayor. “It’s a mermaid. You can’t put her on a chair.

The mermaid Asaa was created by Palle Moerk, a local artist and stonemason who carves both tombstones and figurative sculptures; among these, pigs, owls and human hands making gestures (both obscene and not) are favored themes. He had sculpted the mermaid four years before it was purchased by a group of Asaa citizens and donated to the organization that runs the port to commemorate its 140th birthday.

In an interview, the artist said he resented the accusation of copying Eriksen’s mermaid. “As an artist you understand all kinds of things – and of course I had seen pictures of the mermaid Langelinie,” Moerk explained. “But it was my own inspiration.”

Having bought a large piece of granite, he had kept it in his yard, not knowing what to cut. But late one night, the muse knocked, and he quickly sketched the mermaid on some paper he kept by his bed for such times. “Sometimes the stone speaks to you,” he said.

The thought that his siren can be erased disturbs him, he said. “I didn’t think we were destroying works of art in Denmark. This is something the Taliban are doing.

Although Eriksen’s estate is asking for just 37,000 Danish crowns, or roughly $ 6,000 in compensation, Moerk and Klitgaard said they believed the lawsuit was motivated by greed. The estate’s copyright will expire in 2029 – 70 years after the artist’s death – and the mayor of Broenderslev has said he believes they might “try to be paid before then.” There are a lot of situations where they got money for this sort of thing.

There is indeed. As early as 1937, Eriksen successfully sued a Danish craft company for producing needlepoint designs of the mermaid, whose body was modeled after that of his wife, Eline.

More recently, his heirs sued the Danish newspaper Berlingske after publishing images of the statue: one a caricature of the mermaid with the zombie face; the other, a photograph of her wearing a coronavirus mask. In 2020, the Copenhagen City Court ruled that the newspaper had indeed infringed copyright and imposed a fine of 285,000 crowns, approximately $ 45,000, plus court costs.

The Eriksen heirs also sued Bjoern Noergaard, an artist who incorporated the iconic likeness of “The Little Mermaid” into his own work, such as “The Genetically Modified Little Mermaid,” a statue that now stands a few hundred yards from the ‘original. Noergaard got into trouble with the estate in 2008, after using a photo of “The Little Mermaid” in a collage. But what Eriksen’s heirs had failed to recognize, he said over the phone, was that “artists have always referred to other artists.”

He pointed out that when Jacobsen commissioned the original sculpture, he told Eriksen how and where to position his mermaid, and even made it clear that he modeled his face on that of a dancer the industrialist had become infatuated with after the ” have seen playing in a ballet. version of the story by Hans Christian Andersen.

“So in this case the artist took the motif from another artist,” Noergaard said, and “the client’s design”.

The village of Asaa can also take a little hope from the city of Greenville, Michigan. In 2009, the Eriksen Estate got wind of a statue of the Little Mermaid that had perched there on the banks of the Flat River for 15 years, a tribute to the city’s Danish heritage. Through the Artists’ Rights Society in New York, he accused the city of “unauthorized reproduction” and sued for $ 3,700. He subsequently dropped the claim for unknown reasons, although it is possible that the Michigan siren was stunned. mule-esque expression and hairstyle – very different from the wispy braid of its Copenhagen counterpart – played a role.

With less than 1,200 residents, Asaa will struggle to pay damages, said port president Thomas Nymann. But what he most hopes to avoid is having to destroy the sculpture, he added.

“A lot of people in town donated money for it, all the stores,” he said. “They will all be very upset if we lose him. “

Mayor Klitgaard, who said many citizens in his small community have expressed similar sentiments, also objected to the idea of ​​paying compensation. “If ours was bronze, with the same size and the same face: OK. But they are quite different. Besides, he said with a wink. “It is clear that she is local. She looks like an Asaa girl.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Denmark now has two little mermaids. The famous continues.
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