Het Lieverdje

Carel Kneulman

The bronze boy who has stood fearlessly on a pedestal on the Spui since 1959 has seen, experienced and endured much. Het Lieverdje (“The Sweetheart”) was created by Amsterdam sculptor Carel Kneulman (1915-2008), initially in plaster form, and a year later in the current, more weather-resistant bronze, with financial support from a tobacco manufacturer.

The sculpture is based on a story from a column in Het Parool, the Amsterdam Diary, written by journalist Henri Knap. In the story, a little boy rescues a dog that fell into the water. Later more stories followed about Amsterdam street kids, the “sweethearts. It was intended as an image of youth, the symbol of the city.

And exactly there, at this central point in the city, according to the provo movement, the “magic center” of resistance was to emerge. This is where Robert Jasper Grootveld did his anti-smoking happenings, right next to “the addicted consumer of tomorrow.” For a long time he organized happenings there every Saturday night; art performances that often ended in conflict with the police. These conflicts made the happenings increasingly well known, and thus the Lieverdje became iconic. Protests and gatherings still regularly take place on the Spui. For example, the protest movement and political party De Kabouterbeweging, which grew out of the Provos, placed a Gnome statue directly under the Lieverdje. This year, climate activists from Extinction Rebellion put a blindfold on the statue. In 2015, the statue was set on fire during a demonstration, just a few years after it was accidentally knocked over by a reversing truck. The kid broke both ankles, but was able to be put back in place after repairs were made.