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The Things of Warsaw / Room of Warsaw Mermaids

Syrena Warszawska, MHW 27549

Mermaid sculpture from the fountain at the Old Town Market Square

It is the original sculpture which is very well known to the residents of Warsaw and referred to in a diminutive form as Little Mermaid. A copy of the sculpture stands at Old Town Market Square and is one of the most frequent motifs to feature in postcards and souvenirs from the Old Town. The model of the sculpture was created in the early February 1855 by Konstanty Hegel (1799–1876), professor at the School of Fine Arts in Warsaw, and it served to cast the statue in tin (subsequently bronzed) in the Warsaw factory of Karol Juliusz Minter (1812–1892).

It was the biggest foundry at that period in the Russian Empire, within whose borders Warsaw was located at the time. Due to the fact that the sculpture was cast in tin, which was cheaper than bronze but also softer, it became more vulnerable to damage. The nearly two-metre Mermaid with a sword raised above her head and a round shield was installed several months later in Old Town Market Square on the site of the former 15th-century town hall of Old Warsaw (historic name of the city which embraced today’s Old Town), which had been pulled down in 1817. The statue rested on an artificial rock inside a basin as a decoration of the fountain whose construction bore relation to the installation of the first modern waterworks designed by Henryk Marconi and launched in the same year, i.e. 1855.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, the statue stood amid the bustle of the Old Town marketplace, surrounded by stalls. In 1914, the fountain was replaced with an octagonal concrete basin with a sandstone socle, on which the statue was set. In 1928, the basin was removed, and the Mermaid sculpture was deposited in a storehouse of the municipal authorities. One year later, it was installed in front of the “Mermaid” Municipal Employees’ Sports Club at 8 Solec Street.

Having suffered numerous wounds, it survived World War II (1939–1945) in that location. Following the repairs carried out in the bronze factory of the Łopieński Brothers (the works involved restoring the torn off sword, casting the left hand and the shield, repairing considerable damage to the surface and plugging more than fifty holes left after bullets and shrapnel shells), in 1955 the Mermaid was installed in the Central Park of Culture(currently Marshal Edward Śmigły-Rydz Park) in Powiśle, the riverside part of the city centre. Unfortunately, it also suffered damage in that location.

Following renovation in the Decorative Bronze workshop, which incorporated the properties of the Łopieński Brothers’ factory, nationalised in 1950, the Mermaid was moved to the restored and rebuilt fortifications of the Old Town. Yet, also in that location the statue suffered devastation. In order to protect it from further damage, it was transferred to Old Town Market Square in 1999. The repeating acts of vandalism compelled the city authorities to replace the original statue with a copy. Thus, one of the most recognisable monuments in the capital city, which was also most frequently devastated and moved to new locations, entered the holdings of the Museum of Warsaw in 2008.

Mermaid sculpture from the fountain at the Old Town Market Square
WARSAW; 1855
MHW 27549
180 × 119 × 120 CM

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