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What is more natural than issuing stamps promoting tourism in H.C. Andersen's Fairy Tale Land.  Denmark is no exception, but particularly in relation to international stamp exhibitions a number of such stamps have been issued by foreign postal administrations, and all of them -- naturally -- depicting The Little Mermaid in real or fancy design.  All such stamps that I know of are displayed on this page. 

The statue on the Copenhagen waterfront, that became a national symbol, was executed by the Danish sculptor Edvard Eriksen (1876-1959).  He trained as apprentice with the sculptor Sophus Petersen, and was later educated at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen.  After extensive travels throughout Europe and a professorship at the Copenhagen Academy he was appointed honorary professor of the Fine Art Academy in Carrara, Italy.  In 1930 he accepted the position as conservator at Thorvaldsen's Museum in Copenhagen. 

His internationally best known work is the statue of "The Little Mermaid", inspired by Andersen's fairy tale of the same name, and a contemporary ballet performed by the Danish prima ballerina Ellen Price (1878-1968), who modeled together with Eline Eriksen, the artist's wife. The statue's face is thus the ballerina's, whilst the body is that of Mrs. Eriksen.  The statue was finalized in 1913, and was placed on a stone at the Copenhagen waterfront, where the public would see her when promenading. 


It is unclear how the lonely Mongolian musician, playing his mandolin on the background of isolate mountains, comes into the picture of H.C. Andersen, but my imagination tells me that it could be a local  depiction of the sorrowful Songs of the Sirenes, that are known world wide in some form or other, particularly Loreley's Song, written by Heinrich Heine in 1823, thirteen years before Andersen published his fairy tale about the Little Mermaid (1836). 

Andersen had met Heine during his travels in Germany and may well have been inspired by him. 

The statue of The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen is shown in the lower right corner, looking out on the indefinite, wavy sea, longing for her lost prince.

  • Mongolia 1987.  Souvenir sheet issued at the occasion of the international stamp exhibition Hafnia '87 in Copenhagen. The Hafnia-logo is in the top left corner. 

Over the years the statue has been vandalized many times, the first time in 1964 by Jørgen Nash (1929-2004), who himself was an artist and the brother of the Danish Cobra-painter Asger Jorn. 

He simply beheaded the Mermaid statue in the middle of the night, and threw her head away in a lake in the northern suburbs of Copenhagen !!!  

  • Korea (Dem. Peoples' Rep.) 1987.  The statue of The Little Mermaid, issued for the international stamp exhibition Hafnia '87 in Copenhagen.  The ship in the background is the training ship "Danmark" in the Harbour of Copenhagen. 

There was no reason at all for this "homicide", except for the artist's obvious and pathetic need to attract the attention to his own person.  However, it wouldn't be untrue to claim that the beheaded statue soon became as big a tourist attraction as the intact statue!  Jørgen Nash lived most of his adult life in an artist collective in Sweden. For many years the offender would never admit his crime, and after some time the case was shelved, due to lack of evidence, but in his auto-biography, issued in 1997, 30 years later, he finally confessed what he had done that disastrous night of 24th April 1964. The offender claimed that the beheading was a happening that was synonymous with "Action in Art, the prevalent trend for young artists of the 1960s in Denmark.

  • Denmark 1989.  Promoting Tourism:  Statue of The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen. 

Denmark 1989.  The "beheaded" statue. 
NOTE: This is not a genuine stamp, but a digital removal of her head to illustrate the destruction. Further, I have changed the colour of the "beheaded" stamp slightly from the original, in order to avoid any confusion. 

Over the years she had one of her arms "amputated" by young drunkards, and on 6th January 1998 in the early morning another vandal beheaded her for the second time.  As late as 11th September 2003, the day the Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh was murdered, she was again totally removed from her stone by vandals, and simply pushed into the water.  After a necessary repair, she was quickly replaced on her usual stone. A list of the vandalism, spiced with interesting photographs, is available at the link given at the bottom of the page. 

Although a very small statue that cannot in the least "compete" with such monumental buildings or statues as for instance The Eiffel Tower or The Statue of Liberty, The Little Mermaid means as much to Danes as The Eiffel Tower does to French people, and The Statue of Liberty to Americans, so the beheading was nearly regarded as a national disaster, to say the least. Here are some snapshots from the "scene of the crime", taken by the webmaster at that time. 

Since the 1964-beheading young gangs of graffiti-painters have found it great fun to over-paint the statue with various colours and all sorts of tags.  Such graffiti is removed immediately by the municipality of Copenhagen, so that the statue is always cleaned up when the first tourist-buses arrive in the late morning, which is the best time of the day to photograph her. 

Souvenir shops in Copenhagen carry a lot of varieties of figurines of The Little Mermaid, as well as she is depicted as ornamentation on table silver, plates etc. 


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