The settings

The settings

Quotes from the book ‘From Marcus Aurelius to Kim Jong-il’

The famous Renaissance artist Michelangelo knew better than anyone else that a statue needs a context; an environment that does justice to the work. When he was asked to come up with a proposal for the setting of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, he therefore did not limit himself to developing a simple design for a suitable placement of the monument, but instead transformed the statue into the visual focus of such a wonderful setting: the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome.

…………..A statue has to be in harmony with its environment and needs space.

…………..Someone who understood this very well was Louis XIV. His equestrian statues in France were not made in order to decorate a square, but….

…………..Historic squares are often dominated and embellished by equestrian statues. Some good examples of this are the Plaza Duomo in Milan with Vittorio Emanuele, the Plaza Mayor in Madrid with Philip III, Wenceslas………..

…………..The combination of two statues can not only embellish a place, but also enhance the two statues mutually. Some examples of successful combinations of two equestrian statues are: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, in Glasgow by Carlo Marochetti and …………….

…………….A mediocre statue can be enhanced by its setting, but unfortunately a poor or neglected setting can take away from a splendid statue. A good example of the latter is the impressive statue in New York of…………

…………….Another example of poor placing concerns the four equestrian statues (of the King of Prussia and three emperors of the German Empire) on the corners of the Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne, Germany.

…………….To end with: the dreariest equestrian in the dreariest place one can imagine: the statue of Giuseppe…………

Equestrian statues are often part of large monuments, for example:

…………………….• The Grant memorial in Washington DC by Shrady (1922). The tall equestrian statue of Ulysses S. Grant is surrounded by an artillery and a cavalry group and four bronze lions.

…………………………..• The Kyffhäuser monument by Emil Hundrieser (1896). This combines a nine-metre high equestrian statue of Wilhelm I (Whitebeard) with a statue of emperor Friedrich I, known as Barbarossa (Redbeard), sitting in his cave.

………………………Most equestrian statues are placed on a pedestal, and this creates the often-required distance between the spectator and the subject. One realises this distance all the more if one sees an equestrian statue without a pedestal, such as the statue of……………….

……………………Some examples of heavily decorated pedestals are Friedrich Franz II von Mecklenburg in Schwerin, Christian V in Copenhagen, Vittorio Emanuele in Milan ………………….

……………………..A simple, but extraordinary pedestal is the one in Saint Petersburg on which the famous equestrian statue of Peter the Great by Etienne Falconet stands. For this pedestal, an enormous boulder known as the Thunder Stone was found six kilometres inland. The stone gained its name from a local legend that thunder split a piece off the rock………

………………………It is always worth the effort to pay attention to the base of a statue. Often one can see there not only the ‘signature’ of the sculptor, the year of creation of the statue or the name of the founder, but also a variety of subjects such as trampled enemies, vanquished dragons, attacking lions, broken wheels, cannons and cannonballs. These are often part of a story that the statue tells us or ………………