Statues and stories

The statues and their stories

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

Equestrian statues often purport to tell a story. In most cases, this is the story of the life of the person portrayed, frequently achieved by using reliefs on the pedestal of the statue to commemorate important events; victories and the like. However, the equestrian statue itself can also tell the story of a famous battle, a local myth or….

……………………..Many equestrian sculptures in the US tell the story of the migration to the West. Some fine examples are The Great Montana Centennial Cattle Drive Monument (Billings, Massachusetts), Homesteader Preparing to Stake a Claim (Ponca City, Oklahoma), The Prophet’s Last Ride (Nauvoo, Illinois) and the series of equestrian sculptures commemorating the famous Pony Express.

It may be unnecessary to state that the sculptures do not always reflect reality. A good example of this is the equestrian statue of Leopold II alongside the sea boulevard in Ostend (Belgium). Two groups of statues embellish the pedestal of the statue: one representing the grateful Congolese people because Leopold II had ‘liberated them from the slavery by the Arabs’ and the other group representing ‘the homage by the Ostend fishermen to its brilliant protector’. The latter group may be realistic; the former is certainly not.

………………Two nonsense stories concerning equestrian statues come up from time to time.

The first is the theory that the statues contain a code whereby the rider’s fate can be determined by noting how many hooves the horse has raised. For example, one raised hoof indicates wounded in battle, two raised hooves death in battle. Needless to say, even if such a code ever existed, almost no sculptor respected it.

A second popular story is about the sculptor going mad as a result of ……..