Statue of Liberty Restoration Nose Section
Welded copper section of the Statue of Liberty’s nose, produced by P.A. Fiebiger, Inc., NY, as one of only two nose sections in existence. Circa 1985
A Brief History of the Replicated Nose of the Statue of Liberty
It was determined during the mid-1980’s restoration of the Statue of Liberty that various body parts of the Great Lady needed to be replaced. They had not failed from corrosion: the brilliance of Gustav Eiffel and his understanding of the behavior of dissimilar metals had maintained the integrity of the copper skin and the iron armature, ten years before his famous tower in Paris.
The process by which the parts are hammered into forms is called repoussé. When metal is hammered downward into a cavity, like rolling out pastry dough and forcing it down, it becomes thin. The talented 19th-century French artisans were restricted by their place in time. Use of a torch for brazing non-ferrous materials had not been discovered during their tenure. With limited techniques, they employed every ounce of their talents to fashion the pieces. The robes of the Lady were not hammered, but folded and are exempt from the repoussé process.
Conventional wisdom is that the approximate thickness of the statue’s skin is the same as the combination of a dime and penny. Yet it is not completely true: the tip of her nose had been hammered to the thickness of a strand of human hair.
As the years progressed, water entered the Statue and settled in puddles; maintenance workers punched holes in these areas in order to expel the water. A noticeable victim of this remedial activity was the nose. Large jagged holes pockmarked her; water poured out as if it were a fountain.
The company of P.A. Fiebiger, Inc., led by Joseph Fiebiger, was a third generation, modestly sized, Manhattan-based firm of metal artisans. They were charged with the enormous challenge and privilege of the Skin Restoration. Naturally enough, the restoration of the nose was the most romantic.
Reproduction of the statue’s nose in 19th century standards – though poetic, as it would maintain the link between artisans in different centuries – was out of the question. Twentieth-century technology was mandated and was used. The 20th-century artisans’ plethora of welding features enabled them to hammer the copper pieces sideways, always maintaining the original thickness. Empirically, they discovered the best methods of welding the copper in a manner that left no tell-tale-evidence of welding, despite the weather.
Essentially the entire process was a marriage of timeless skills and 20th-century technology. National Park Service architects and engineers monitored the thickness of the new work with precise instruments. Conservation and preservation practices required that only defective sections be replaced, therefore only the afflicted areas were replaced. Nonetheless, the nose, in its entirety had to be replicated.
A negative impression of the nose was taken using polymers with memory. It is basically the same process as in creating a dental crown. Industry tips its hat to medical science and uses such non-shrinking, memory materials with vigor. The impressions of the nose were made to an accuracy of six ten-thousandths of an inch (.0006”) per foot. Polymer cavities were reproduced from these impressions and the abilities to precisely replicate the nose were in place.
In order to perfect the procedure five noses were made. One was used for destructive testing while various pieces were cut from others to be used as replacement parts and as fastening plates, called astragals. Now, this nose is one of only two authentic replicas of the Statue’s nose in existence. The other is in a collector’s private museum.
Once the restoration was completed, perhaps somewhat irreverently, this nose sat on a workbench in the shop. Its patina had begun to develop as it was subjected to the dirt and activities of a busy workshop. Finally a small copper mount was welded to the nose and it was hung, though still irreverently, on a shop wall.
Estimate: $150,000 - $200,000