Like other ideals such as Truth, Justice, Prudence, Wisdom and so on, Liberty is often personified as a woman. Such personifications date from classical times when these qualities were personified as goddesses. In France, whose culture is more closely linked to the classical world, the words for such ideals are still invariably feminine: La Verité, La Justice, La Liberté, etc.
A temple dedicated to the goddess Liberty was built on the Aventine Hill in Rome during the second Punic War and a statue of her was erected on the site of Cicero's house after it had been pulled down.
In France Liberty, or Liberté, is sometimes represented as a classical goddess but she is often confused with the personification of the French Nation, Marianne. The figure carrying a Tricolore and wearing a Phrygian cap (or Liberty Cap) in the famous painting - above left - by Delacroix (La Liberté guidant le Peuple) is Liberté not Marianne. The Convention at the end of September 1792 decreed that the Seal of State should include a "Liberty figure". Modestly attired, and now wearing a crown of seven rays, Liberté still appears on the French Seal of State seated and holding a fasces in her right hand.
She also appears on the logos of legal officers: for example notaires (right) and bailiffs (far right)
The figure of Liberté is one of the gererally recognised symbols of sovereignty not mentioned in article 2 of the French Constitution of 1958, which refers only to le drapeau tricolore, bleu, blanc, rouge: The French Flag , L'hymne national, the national anthem, The Marseillaise and La devise de la République; the motto . "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité". The figure personifying Liberté - or Liberty - is well known in the USA, though the fact that she is classical heathen goddess is generally played down - she is often referred to euphemistically as Lady Liberty. She is shown on a coin from 1850 on the lower right holding a Liberty Cap on a "freedom pole"
A bronze Statue of Liberty stands on top of the Capitol in Washington (she is called Freedom rather than Liberty, but it's the same goddess). Photographs of her are shown on the left.
The statue is a classical female figure of the goddess Liberty wearing her flowing robes. Her right hand rests upon the hilt of a sheathed sword. In her left holds a laurel wreath of victory and the shield of the United States. Her novel headgear is a helmet encircled by stars with a crest featuring a eagle's head, feathers and talons (a reference to the costume of Native Americans). The lower part of the base is decorated with fasces and wreaths. The bronze statue stands 19 feet 6 inches tall and weighs approximately 15,000 pounds. The crest of her helmet rises 288 feet above the east front plaza.
A statue for the top of the national Capitol had appeared in Thomas U. Walter's original drawing for the new dome, which was authorised in 1855. Walter's drawing showed the outline of a statue representing Liberty. The project architect proposed an allegorical figure called "Freedom triumphant in War and Peace" wearing a Liberty Cap, but Jefferson Davis (then Secretary of War) objected to the liberty cap so the architect replaced it with an innovative Roman helmet shown above left.
Austin, Texas also has Liberty standing on top of its Capitol dome (shown right). Unusually for the Christian southern USA she is referred to explicitly as the Goddess of Liberty. As on the nation's Capitol she holds a sword, this time unsheathed. In the other she holds a lone star representing Texas. Elsewhere in the USA she has been demoted from a goddess to "Lady Liberty" and in some places even further to "Miss Freedom" which some find just a little prosaic.
A statue of Liberty Enlightening the World which many Americans think of as The Statue of Liberty stands at the entrance to New York harbour. It is because she is enlightening the world that she carries aloft her famous torch.
She was originally designed for the Suez Canal, but eventually commissioned as a centennial gift from the Republic of France to the USA, a visible token of friendship between the two republics and a symbol their shared aspirations and Enlightenment roots. She wears the same crown of seven arches that she does on the French Seal of State.
Liberty outside a notaire's office
Liberty outside a bailiff's office