We’ve been thrilled for many years to have an original bust of Mises in our library. It is from Mises’s own home, willed to us by Margit von Mises. I believe it is one of only two in the world (the third was somehow lost or stolen, and I’m not sure if it was recovered).
In any case, we finally decided to look into the possibility of making more of these. Full size in bronze would be inconceivable and unnecessary. We found an outstanding sculptor who is replicating the original and producing a half size, which is still quite large. With a marble base, it is going to be quite heavy and substantial. The best thing is that this is a model based on Mises’s own head, done in the 1950s.
Margit von Mises writes in My Years with Ludwig von Mises:
It was in 1955 that George Koether had the idea that a bust should be made of Lu for posterity. He spoke to his good friend Nelly Erickson, a sculptress, who works mostly with wood and marble. George had seen her portrait busts and he felt she would be enthusiastic about doing the work. Nelly was enthusiastic about the idea, but George told her: “There is one problem. Dr. von Mises is a very busy man; I must first get his permission and see whether he is willing to have it done.”
So George invited Nelly and my husband for lunch, and Nelly told Lu that she could do the work in six one-hour sessions. Lu was horrified, and he told her he could not spare that much time. But Nelly was persistent: “I will work while you work at your desk; I won’t disturb you at all.” Finally he agreed, and one or two days later they started. She put her armature on rollers and pushed it around the desk, never talking to him, never disturbing him; he never really posed. But one day she had to come near to him, to take measurements with her calipers. And suddenly his face, with the beautiful complexion he always had, got dark red. It embarrassed him terribly that a strange woman should come so near to his face and touch him.
When he came home that night and told me about his “adventure,” I felt I had to see the woman who stayed for hours around my husband and had to touch his face to be able to work.
So the next day I went to his office in Gallatin House to meet Nelly, and immediately we became the best of friends. I liked her; I liked the bust; but I asked her to change the hair, which she did. When the bust was finished, my husband looked at it approvingly, smiled, and said slowly, ”Yes . . . Yes.” He obviously was pleased. Nelly took the bust and worked at home on the details. Then she cast it in plaster in her studio and took it to the foundry, where it was cast into bronze by the lost-wax process, the same process the old Greeks used centuries ago, the only true and good reproduction for portraits.
At a dinner party George Koether presented the bust to my husband. It has its place of honor in our living room, a fresh rose or a carnation always next to it.
This is the bust that has been used as a model for the new version that will be available in July. We hope to get the price down below $250.
We had the chance to visit the studio of the sculptor and see the first clay version. Here is tape we made while there. The quality isn’t great because, well, when it comes to the camera thing, I have no idea what I am doing.