The popular statue of an angry little boy in Oslo’s Frogner Park, called “Sinnataggen,” is suddenly showing signs of being a bit too popular this summer. Tourists keep holding its hand, and that’s causing discoloration and too much wear and tear.
Instead of simply posing for photos around the statue that’s part of sculptor Gustav Vigeland’s huge collection of life-size bronze and granite works in the park, tourists have been holding its hand as well. Some seem to want to comfort the image, while others think it will bring good luck if they touch Sinnataggen. The statue’s left hand is especially inviting to reach out to, with one American tourist telling newspaper Dagsavisen that “the hand was shining so much that I felt I just had to hold it.”
The shine illustrates the self-perpetuating problem that Dagsavisen reports is worrying officials at the adjacent Vigeland Museum: The frequent hand-holding prevents the natural oxidation occurring on the rest of the statue. The more hand-holding, the more shine, and then more temptation for hand-holding.
The statue is arguably the best-known in the Frogner Park and has had more than its share of rough treatment over the years. It’s been dressed up by pranksters, painted several times (not least in red by partying high school graduates) and was even stolen back in the early 1990s. The bandits sawed off the statue at the tramping toddler’s ankle, leaving only its left foot forlornly on the pedestal, until the statue was eventually recovered in a garbage dump. It was then reattached to the foot.
‘Touching’ but damaging
The current “vandalism” of sorts is far more benign, even literally touching, but it nonetheless concerns its conservators.
“Sinnataggen is an icon, it’s the park’s ‘Mona Lisa’ that everyone wants to see and some want to touch,” Jarle Strømodden, leader of the Vigeland Museum, told Dagsavisen. “We see that especially its left hand and foot get a lot of handling. We’re following the situation closely to prevent the statue from being destroyed over time. You can get holes in a bronze statue.”
Strømodden said the relatively recent hand-holding is part of many myths about Sinnataggen. “People touch it because they think it will bring them good luck or good fortune,” he said. “From what we understand, it’s become part of a ritual for tourists who visit the park. It stems from other parts of the world where people touch statues.”
He and his colleagues have evaluated various means of reducing the wear and tear on Sinnataggen, including coating its hand with wax this past spring to help it tolerate all the hand-holding. In June, the hand was coated with a dark fluid so it wouldn’t be so shiny and attractive.
They’re also working on a “Do not touch” sign, but hope to avoid such a forbidding message. “We’d rather find some way to encourage folks to just be more careful,” Strømodden said.
He and his colleagues were upset to hear that some tour guides actually were spreading the myth of the statue bringing good luck, and encouraging people in their groups to touch it. The museum has thus sent out a letter to tour guides asking them to instead advise tourists against touching Sinnataggen.