Right outside the historic Villa Albertine’s garden wall, sits a 4-foot-tall bronze sculpture of the Little Prince from the much beloved French children’s book, Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
The new artwork by French sculptor Jean-Marc de Pas and the American Society of Le Souvenir Français with the Antoine de Saint Exupéry Youth Foundation honors the 80th anniversary of the 1943 book and the lives it has touched across the decades.
The sculpture was carved from clay and cast in bronze in one single piece at the sculptor’s studio in Normandy, France and was just unveiled at the Villa Albertine’s Payne Whitney Mansion at 972 Fifth Avenue.
“The Little Prince—a beloved cultural icon across the world and the perfect embodiment of France’s shared history with the U.S—will be right at home on Manhattan’s famous Fifth Avenue,” said Laurent Bili, Ambassador of France to the USA. “80 years after the publication of this timeless classic, we are delighted to welcome the Little Prince to Villa Albertine, where thousands of visitors come every month to attend literary events and browse the shelves of Albertine Books. Now when they arrive, they will be greeted by this monument to cultural exchanges, creativity, and exploration—values that underpin everything that we do. The French Embassy constantly strives to highlight remarkable stories like this one that celebrate the close societal and cultural ties between France and the U.S.”
If you don’t know, Le Petit Prince is about a pilot who crashes his plane in the desert and meets a boy (the Little Prince) from another planet. The boy tells the pilot stories about his travels across the universe and the nuggets of wisdom he has gleaned.
The novella, which has sold over 200 million copies worldwide, has been translated into hundreds of languages and is one of the best-selling books in history.
Over the years, there have been plaques and statues to commemorate the novelist, according to American Society of Le Souvenir Français, but this sculpture is the first of its kind. Saint Exupéry was from France but lived in New York between 1940 and 1943, and sailed to North Africa during World War II with one advance copy of the tale. Fifteen months later, he disappeared in his Lockheed P-38 Lightning, while serving the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces, during a reconnaissance mission over occupied France.
This is the American Society of Le Souvenir Français’s way of honoring an “exemplary” French citizen and promoting French culture here.
“New York is a city known for its diversity, its mix of different cultures. The Little Prince is a tale that celebrates the importance of such diversity and mutual understanding, which reminds us that as humans we are all connected, even if we come from different backgrounds,” said Jean-Hugues Monier, Board Member of the American Society of Le Souvenir Français and member of the sculpture’s Steering Committee. “This statue is a symbol of Franco-American friendship, of France’s contribution to the universal values of the Little Prince. It will be an invitation for people walking on Fifth Avenue to sit by the Little Prince’s side, especially New York children.”