Part 2

Introduction to Part II

In the next sections I will deal with the statues per country. Where appropriate I start the section with a general observation on the equestrian statues in that country and in many cases I also give a summary of the history of the country in so far it helps to put the statues in perspective. 

Where applicable pieces of this part of the book have also been added to the relevant countries, statues and sculptures.


Italy is the cradle of the equestrian statue. Not only do we find here the only remaining equestrian statue from Roman times, but it is also the region where the rebirth of this specific form of art took place during the Renaissance. Some of these statues are not just depictions of rider and horse, but are irreplaceable and outstanding works of art. Therefore it is no surprise that the best-known modern artist who created a new form of equestrian sculpture is Italian: Marino Marini.

A special category of equestrian art in Italy is the funerary monument that preceded the rebirth of the equestrian statue in the Renaissance. These wooden sculptures, often gilded or coloured, adorn the tombs of condottieri; mercenaries of the powerful city-states in the Middle Ages. The first renaissance statues also portrayed these condottieri as well as the rulers of those city-states.

There are at least 50 equestrian statues in Italy. Slightly less than half of them portray the creators of modern Italy: Giuseppe Garibaldi and Vittorio Emanuele II.

The Iberian Peninsula

Spain has some of the finest and oldest equestrian statues: Philip III by the famous Giambologna and his pupil Pietro Tacca, the first large and monumental statue ever of a rearing horse with rider, and Philip IV, also by Pietro Tacca. Both these statues are in Madrid. 

Spain is also the only country to have passed a law that requires the removal of all the statues of a specific person, in this case General Franco.

The statues in Spain can be categorized into statues portraying heroes from the Reconquista, rulers of the Spanish empire, and the Bourbons and leading men in the war of the Spanish succession. 

With the exception of some small areas in the north, the Iberian Peninsula was almost completely conquered by the Muslims in the eighth century. The recapture took nearly 800 years, ending with the fall of Toledo in 1492. This long-lasting affair was conducted by a tangled sequence of emerging, merging and demerging Christian states, which were as often at war with each other as they were with the Muslims.

A number of the heroes of this Reconquista are commemorated with equestrian statues.


Equestrian statues can be found all over the country of France.

The kings of the House of Bourbon started with the erection of such statues for themselves, with Louis XIV as the most active. Many of these statues were melted down during and shortly after the revolution in 1789, but it was not long before statues for Napoleon, the new hero, were created. <Most of them faced the same sad fate as the statues of the royals before him. >Fortunately many of the destroyed statues were later restored or recreated. 

In 1874 the first statue of Jeanne d’Arc was erected in Paris, with the intention of re-establishing French self-confidence following their humiliating defeat by the Prussian army in 1870. Many statues of this heroine would follow. Nowadays, every self-respecting city in France, large and small, has a statue of this national symbol. 

Other local heroes, including Bertrand de Guesclin and William the Conqueror, also have a statue in an attempt to revive a glorious past. 

Other groups with equestrian statues are generals from the two world wars and freedom fighters, both from France and from abroad, such as Washington and José de San Martin.

The United Kingdom and Ireland

The equestrian statue may have been an Italian invention, but the British have embraced this phenomenon most enthusiastically throughout the ages. There are hardly any kings or queens of the House of Stuart and the succeeding House of Hanover and House of Windsor without an equestrian statue; even today. British field marshals also account for quite a number of the equestrian statues in the UK. 

The British know what an equestrian statue needs: a good setting. Most statues have the room they require and are enrichments for parks, country estates and city squares. This even applies to statues in the middle of heavy traffic, for example the three in a row on Whitehall in London are well placed and give this main road its own character. Many of the statues in the UK are attractive and some have both high artistic and historic value. The same can be said of some equestrian sculptures. 

As with some other colonial powers, the UK nowadays houses a number of statues from places elsewhere in the world where they were no longer wanted. I even found one of them in a private garden in the countryside. <Disputes about the artistic value of the statues are utterly ‘British’, and the subject of many ‘letters to the editor’. >

In short: there are few countries in the world where equestrian statues have had such a broad interest and appreciation throughout the ages as in the UK.

In Ireland, on the other hand, hardly any equestrian statues remain. This, to a large extent, is understandable, given the long Irish history of struggle against English domination and the fact that the statues portrayed their oppressors.

The early kings and their adversaries

England as a nation state began in AD 927, after a gathering of kings from throughout Britain. In 1066, William the Conqueror from Normandy invaded and conquered England. With him, the Angevin House started to rule a realm that, under the successful reign of Henry II, included England and the western half of France. With Henri III the House of the Plantagenets started its reign. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain, with to the north a border with the Kingdom of Scotland.

The Nordic countries 

The Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, share a great deal of common history. They also shared many kings, which is reason enough to combine the countries for our purposes.

The Benelux countries

Like the Nordic states, the Benelux countries – Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg – also share a great deal of common history. Compared with countries such as Spain, France and the UK, royalty and nobility in the Benelux nations had a limited standing, as the real power was held by civilians. It is therefore little surprise that the number of equestrian statues in the Benelux countries is limited.


Germany has at least 60 remaining equestrian statues, although many earlier ones were destroyed during and after World War II. Only 15 equestrian statues of Wilhelm I remain out of the original 40. Most of the statues are rather mediocre and some of them really exemplify Teutonic megalomania. Apart from the statues, Germany has some beautiful equestrian sculptures, thanks to sculptors such as Kiss and Tuaillon.

The Holy Roman Empire is important in the history of Germany; the medieval German state having Otto I as its first emperor. Dukes and princes of the empire, however, gained power at the expense of the emperors. Powerful rulers in the twelfth century include Frederick I (Barbarossa) of the Hohenzollern dynasty and Otto von Wittelsbach, founder of the Wittelsbach dynasty that ruled Bavaria until 1918. During his reign (from 1493 to 1519), Maximilian I tried to reform the empire, but his attempts were frustrated by its continued territorial fragmentation.

The Protestant Reformation initiated by Martin Luther in 1517, led to a clash between the Protestant northern states and the Catholic southern states, in what is known as the Thirty Years’ War. The year 1648 not only marked the end of this war, but also effectively the end of the Holy Roman Empire, which was formally dissolved in 1806. It was also the beginning of the modern nation-state system, with Germany divided into numerous independent states, such as Prussia, Bavaria and Saxony. Prussia, with its capital Berlin, grew in strength. Unification was achieved with the formation of the German Empire in 1871, with 25 states under the leadership of Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck and with Wilhelm I as its first emperor. 


Of all the equestrian statues in Germany, almost half represent members of the House of Hohenzollern, a noble family and royal dynasty of electors, kings and emperors of Prussia, Germany and Romania.


The Wittelsbach family played an important role in Bavaria, starting with Otto von Wittelsbach and lasting until the abdication of King Ludwig III in 1918. In their city of residence, Munich, we find a number of fine statues of representatives of the Wittelsbach family.

 Equestrian sculptures

Germany can count a great number of interesting equestrian sculptures. Two of these, the Bamberger Reiter and the Magdeburger Reiter, lay claim to being the oldest equestrian sculptures in the country.

Central Europe

Central Europe consists of Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Switzerland

From their capital of Vienna, the Habsburg dynasty dominated a great deal of these countries’ shared history, so it is not surprising that many of the equestrian statues in this region can be seen there. The Habsburg dynasty expanded its territory throughout the whole of Central Europe, only to be stopped in the south by the Ottoman Empire. Quite a number of equestrian statues commemorate the continuous struggle with the Ottomans. The same applies to the Hungarian revolution, which resulted in the double monarchy and the start of the decline of the Habsburg dynasty.


As stated, the power base of the Habsburg family was Vienna. Therefore, it is no surprise that this city is home to almost all of the equestrian statues of Austria. The only equestrian statue that I know in Austria outside of Vienna is the one of Archduke Leopold V (1586–1632) in Innsbruck. 


The Swiss freed themselves from the Habsburg dynasty by defeating them in the Battle of Morgarten in 1315 and the Battle of Sempach in 1386. The Swiss never had mighty rulers or military heroes. This is probably the reason why there are only a few equestrian statues in the country.

 Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe includes the countries of Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the European part of Russia and Ukraine.

All these countries share important parts of their history, for example Poland and the Baltic States, Poland and Ukraine, and Russia and Ukraine. This also means that they share a number of their heroes, immortalized by building them an equestrian statue.

I found most of the equestrian statues in Russia (34), Ukraine (13) and Poland (12). Some of these statues have an interesting history. I also found one statue in each of the Baltic countries, but none in Belarus.

The Balkans

Nowadays, the Balkans includes the following countries: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. The region lies at the crossroads of cultures and peoples, guaranteeing a turbulent and violent history. <The above-mentioned countries have much of this history in common, and also share some of their heroes. This can result in heated debates, >as for example shown by the dispute between Greece and Macedonia with respect to Alexander the Great. Macedonia is the ultimate example of a country that uses equestrian statues as a tool to define and emphasize its national identity. No less than 12 equestrian statues were placed in its capital Skopje in a short period, often irritating its neighbouring countries. I found the most equestrian statues in Romania, Bulgaria and Macedonia. In Montenegro and Kosovo I could not record any, and in the other countries only a few.


How to put a new country on the map?

A visit to Skopje in Macedonia is a confusing event for a collector of images of equestrian statues like me. Twelve equestrian statues in one day and I am still not sure whether I have seen them all.

To understand what follows, we need a little of the recent history of Macedonia. At the time of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire (in the early twentieth century) and the subsequent wars in the Balkans, Macedonia was a region inhabited by Greeks, Slavs, Albanians and others, all with different aspirations. Some sought an independent Macedonia, others a union with Bulgaria, Serbia or Greece. In 1913, Ottoman Macedonia was partitioned between Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece, with the lion’s share going to Greece and Serbia. In their respective portions of the country, these states vigorously suppressed all attempts to uphold a specific Macedonian identity. However, when Yugoslavia fell apart in 1991, the Serbian part of Macedonia declared independence.

From the very beginning, Greece fiercely disputed the name of the new nation, which is why the official name of the country is ‘The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’. The dispute concerning the name is one reason for Greece to argue against EU membership for Macedonia.

In 2010, the government of Macedonia publicized an ambitious plan to revamp the capital: Skopje 2014. The plan involves radically reinventing the city centre with the aim of giving it a more monumental appearance. This includes dozens of new buildings, bronze and marble statues, fountains, bridges, a triumphal arch, etc. It soon became clear that it was more than a revamp; it was also a reinvention of the Macedonian identity. The government did not lose time putting the plan into effect. When I visited Skopje in 2013, the results were already clearly visible. The Triumphal Arch was there, as well as many neoclassical buildings and numerous statues in marble and bronze. The project has caused a great deal of dispute with regard to the financial aspect (should a relatively poor country spend millions of euros on projects such as these?), the architectural and aesthetic values, and the choice of the heroes portrayed. <Is this project a rewrite or an update of the history? Who is running the show, politicians or historians? Apparently there is no consensus about the history, not only in the neighbouring countries, but also not within Macedonia itself. 

Let me give a few examples. The most monumental figure is the huge equestrian statue of A Warrior on a Horse, as the centrepiece in Macedonia Square was officially named. Everybody knows that this statue depicts Alexander the Great and this enraged the Greeks, because they consider Alexander as a Greek hero. The same applies to the statue of his father: Philip II of Macedonia. Greece sees all of this as an attempt to hijack Hellenistic history and culture. 

Another controversy concerns an equestrian statue with the neutral title Macedonian Equestrian Revolutionary. This bears a striking resemblance to Todor Aleksandrov, who is considered by some Macedonians as a heroic revolutionary, but by others as a Bulgarian traitor, as he should have actively worked against the formation of an independent Macedonia. Similar disputes apply to some of the other equestrian statues. Many of those portrayed – such as Delchev, Sandanski and Chakalarov – are seen as Bulgarian in Bulgaria, but as Macedonian in Macedonia. They were leaders of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (or IMRO), a clandestine Macedonian revolutionary group fighting for the independence of Macedonia from Ottoman rule. However, they were divided between those who sought an independent Macedonian state and others who saw freedom from the Ottomans as a stepping-stone towards a union with Bulgaria. 

Disputes like this will go on. The most recent example is the discussion concerning a twenty-metre-tall statue of Mother Theresa that will be raised in Skopje, the town where she was born. Two other countries, Albania and Kosovo, claim the Nobel Prize winner as theirs, because she lived part of her life there. Fortunately, one thing is certain: it will not be an equestrian statue. 

The United States of America and Canada

The English roots probably explain the large number of equestrian statues in the US. Most of these commemorate the two major events in American history: the War of Independence (1775–1783) and the American Civil War (1861–1865). However, the Native Americans and the migration to the West also have their share. What is remarkable is that a wide variety of what I term the ‘new Americans’ have (and are still getting) equestrian statues; from casino owners to actors and from cattle owners to self-made millionaires.

The first equestrian statue in the US, of George III, was unveiled in 1770. However, only six years later, on the occasion of the Declaration of Independence, it was destroyed by soldiers and the patriotic populace of New York. The royal rider and his prancing steed were cut into pieces, carefully gathered and shipped to nearby Litchfield, where they were cast into bullets, later to be fired at his majesty’s troops. The official reports show that the output from this unexpected supply of metal was exactly 42,088 cartridges.

In total, I found 178 equestrian statues in the US, with concentrations in its capital, Washington DC, New York, Philadelphia and on one of the main battlefields of the Civil War, Gettysburg.

To give these equestrian statues some perspective, I have inserted in a few places some remarks about the history of the US.

Colonial period

The Spanish created the first permanent European settlement in Florida in 1565. The Dutch founded New Amsterdam near the Hudson River in the seventeenth century, a colony that the British took over in 1664. The Swedes, Germans, French and English all founded colonies on the East coast, and expanded westwards from there across the continent, brushing aside the Native Americans.

Some of the ‘conquistadors’ have equestrian statues in the US, particularly in New Mexico and Florida. Given the nature of their claim to fame, the erection of some of these statues was met by resistance. Even today, they are sometimes damaged, as the next story shows.

James Brooke reports in the New York Times of February 1998: 

One moonless night in early January, just as Hispanic New Mexicans were starting to celebrate the 400thanniversary of the first Spanish settlement in the American West, an Indian commando group stealthily approached a bronze statue here of the first conquistador, Don Juan de Onate. With an electric saw, the group slowly severed his right foot; boot stir-up, star-shaped spur and all. ‘We took the liberty of removing Onate’s right foot on behalf of our brothers and sisters of Acoma Pueblo. We see no glory in celebrating Onate’s fourth centennial, and we do not want our faces rubbed in it.’ read a statement sent by the group. The news quickly travelled from this lowland reservoir of Spanish culture 120 miles to the southwest to a mesa, where cheers echoed among the adobe brick houses of Acoma Pueblo. Since 1599, the Acoma had passed from generation to generation the tale of how Juan de Onate had punished the conquered Acona by ordering his men to chop off the right feet of 24 captive warriors.

It was not only the conquistadors who went to the West. In their slipstream were also many settlers and people who wanted to Christianize the Native Americans.

War of Independence

By the 1770s, the colonies on the East Coast had developed their own political and legal systems. When the British government started to tax the colonists, they refused to pay as they considered the tax illegal (no taxation without representation). The colonies formed a unifying Continental Congress. The government in London responded by declaring the Congress traitors. All this led to the start of the American Revolutionary War in 1775, and the Declaration of Independence in 1776. 

When the war began, the colonies lacked a professional army or navy, with each colony sponsoring its own local militia. Seeking to co-ordinate the military efforts, Congress established a regular army, with George Washington as its commander-in-chief. The development of this army was always a work in progress. Washington forced the British troops to withdraw from Boston, but had to retreat from New York in 1776. He personally directed the withdrawal of his entire army and all their supplies across the East River in one night without discovery by the British. 

Washington and his army encamped in Valley Forge near Philadelphia for the next six months. During that winter, about one quarter of his men died from disease or exposure. The next spring, however, the army emerged in good order, trained by Baron von Steuben, who introduced the most modern Prussian methods of organization and tactics. Other experienced Europeans, such as Lafayette, Kościuszko and Pulaski, had also joined the Continental Army. France, Spain and the Dutch Republic entered the war openly in 1778. The decisive point came in 1781, when the British army, trapped between the French naval forces and the Continental Army of Washington, had to surrender.

As mentioned before, France, Spain and the Dutch Republic gave their support to the US in the American Revolutionary War. So did many European individuals, often inspired by the Declaration of Independence. On their return to Europe, some of them (for example Lafayette in France and Kościuszko in Poland) tried to introduce constitutions in their own countries, based upon the ‘Constitution of the United States’.  

Some of them are even today still well known in the US.

Native Americans and the migration to the West

The new nation grew rapidly in population and area, as pioneers pushed the frontier of settlement westwards. Native American tribes resisted, but the settlers and the army overwhelmed them. The Native Americans were the big losers; they never gained the independent nationhood Britain had once promised. In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which authorized the president to negotiate treaties that exchanged Native American tribal lands in the eastern states for lands west of the Mississippi River. The act resulted in the forced migration of native tribes to the West, with thousands of people dying during the journey. The latter half of the nineteenth century was marked by frequent wars, when settlers encroached on traditional Native American lands. Gradually the US purchased their lands and extinguished their claims, forcing most tribes into restricted reservations. The process ended around 1890–1910, as the last major farmland and ranch lands were settled. As the American frontier passed into history, the myths of the West in fiction and film took firm hold in the imagination of Americans and foreigners alike. 

Many equestrian statues testify to the migration, often romanticizing this period. As they do not represent a specific person, but instead a group or an event, they do not qualify as equestrian statues within my definition. Nevertheless, it is worth paying attention to these works, as they represent a number of notable examples of equestrian art, characteristic of this part of the history of the US. 

A number of sculptors stand out: Cyrus Edwin Dallin, James Earle Fraser, Harold T. Holden, Ivan Meštrović, Alexander Phimister Proctor and Frederick Remington. 

The American Civil War

The American Civil War (1861–1865) was a war between 11 seceding southern slave states, forming the Confederate States of America (the Confederacy), and the other 25 states supporting the existing federal government (the Union). Lincoln’s victory in the presidential election in 1860 was the final trigger for secession, because southern leaders feared that he would stop slavery. Hostilities began when Confederate forces fired on a US military installation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Lincoln responded by calling for a volunteer army from each state to recapture federal property.

The Union seized control of the border states early in the war and established a naval blockade. Land warfare in the East was inconclusive in 1861–1862, as the Confederacy beat back Union efforts to capture its capital, Richmond. In 1863, a second northward advance by Confederate General Lee ended in his defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Ulysses S. Grant was given command of all the Union armies in 1864, and organized the armies of William Tecumseh Sherman, George Meade and others to attack the Confederacy from all directions. Lee surrendered to Grant in April 1865. In an untraditional gesture and as a sign of Grant’s respect – and in anticipation of peacefully restoring Confederate states to the Union – he permitted Lee to keep his sword and his horse. In the same month, a Southern sympathizer shot President Lincoln, who died the next morning. 

The American Civil War remains the deadliest war in American history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 750,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilian casualties. Victory for the North meant the end of the Confederacy and of slavery in the United States, and strengthened the role of the federal government.

Roughly 37 per cent of the equestrian statues in the US commemorate the Civil War. I found 53 statues of 34 Union generals and 21 equestrian statues of 12 Confederate generals.

Gettysburg is home to nine equestrian statues. The battlefield of Gettysburg is also the only place where we find statues both of Union and of Confederate generals. Richmond was the capital of the Confederates, so it is no surprise that there we find some of the finest statues of their heroes. Philadelphia, the town where both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were debated and adopted, raised some impressive statues of the Union leaders.

Famous Horses of the Civil War 

Many a fighting man had one or more favourite mounts, entitled to bountiful corn and fodder, careful grooming and a name of its own. <The horse of the commanding officer was often as well known as the general himself, >and the soldiers were as affectionately attached to the animal, as was the master. One clause in the surrender terms at Appomattox in 1865 puzzled some people: every Confederate cavalryman was entitled to take his horse home with him. Grant accepted this provision, insisted on by Lee, when he was told that once they returned to civilian life, former soldiers would not be able to plant spring crops without their war horses.                             

The most famous horses were Traveller (Lee), Rienzi (Sheridan), Highfly (Stuart), Cincinnati (Grant), Billy (Thomas) and Old Sorrel (Jackson). The equestrian statues of Civil War Heroes often include true-to-nature reproductions of their horses. An anecdote illustrating the popularity of the horse Old Sorrel reads as follows:

In 1884, a fair was held at Hagerstown, in Maryland, and one of the most interesting sights was that of the veteran warhorse, Old Sorrel, tethered in a corral and quietly munching choice bits of vegetables and hay. Before the fair ended nearly all the mane and hair of his tail had disappeared, having been plucked by scores of relic hunters.

For many years after the cessation of hostilities, Jackson’s gallant old warhorse was held in tender esteem in the South. When the veteran battle charger died, admirers of Jackson sent the carcass to a taxidermist and the gallant steed now rests in the Soldiers’ Home in Richmond.

The following story about Alpheus Starkey Williams, a Union Major General, shows the status and the importance of the warhorse: 

When riding into the key Civil War battles, Williams was riding Plug Ugly, a large warhorse that he preferred over a show horse named Yorkshire. The latter was his sports car; Plug Ugly was his Ford F-150. Williams wrote in a letter to his family that Plug Ugly “is admired by everybody and pronounced by all as the finest animal in the army.” In another letter he wrote that the horse “is a regular old soldier … For a year and a half we have been daily companions … I should grieve to part with old Plug Ugly.” Plug was injured several times in battle, even lost most of his tail, but he took a licking and kept on ticking, carrying Williams through Gettysburg. 

New Americans

Unique to the US is that from the beginning of the twentieth century, new equestrian statues were established of famous people, who were neither military leaders nor rulers. Their fame can be based on a great variety of grounds, for instance a career in industry, wealth in terms of dollars, killing Billy the Kid, artistic accomplishments, etc. I call them the ‘New Americans’. 

Central America, including Mexico and the Caribbean


In 1519, Hernan Cortez landed on the coast of Mexico, and in the following years the Spanish Empire conquered and colonized the territory from its base in Tenochtitlan, which was administered as the Viceroyalty of New Spain. This territory would eventually become Mexico, following recognition of the colony’s independence in 1821. The post-independence period was characterized by economic instability, the Mexican-American War that led to territorial cession to the United States, the Pastry War, the Franco-Mexican War, a civil war, two empires and a domestic dictatorship. Fertile ground indeed for equestrian statues!

The oldest equestrian statue still existing in the western hemisphere, the statue of the Spanish monarch, Charles IV, dates from 1803 and stands in Mexico City. This equestrian escaped the fate of so many statues of colonial rulers: destruction. As we have seen in previous sections, this happened to the first statue in the western hemisphere: the statue of George III of England, dedicated in New York City in 1770 and destroyed in 1776.

The Mexican Revolution

The Mexican Revolution started in 1910, with an uprising led by Francisco Ignacio Madero against long-time dictator Porfirio Díaz, and lasted for the better part of a decade until around 1920. Over time, the revolution changed from a revolt against the established order to a multi-sided civil war, with frequently shifting power struggles. This armed conflict is often categorized as the most important socio-political event in Mexican history, and one of the greatest upheavals of the twentieth century, culminating in the promulgation of the 1917 Constitution and the emergence of the country’s current political system.

About two-thirds of all equestrian statues in Mexico portray one of the five men who were prominent during the Mexican Revolution: Madero, Carranza, Villa, Zapata and Obregón. Madero started the revolution and under his leadership, the dictator Porfirio Díaz was overthrown in 1910. Madero became president, but was assassinated in 1913 after a military coup by Huerta. Carranza overthrew Huerta with the help of Obregón, Villa and the troops of Zapata, and became president in 1914. Zapata in the south of Mexico and Villa in the north turned against Carranza. Zapata because Carranza did not want to implement the social reforms Zapata wanted, and Villa because he did not get the recognition he deserved for his role in defeating Huerta’s regime. 

Zapata was ambushed in 1919. In 1920, Obregón also turned against Carranza, who was assassinated in the same year. Obregón was president from 1920 until 1924. Villa considered aiming for the presidency, but was assassinated in 1923. Obregón was elected president for a second time in 1928, but was assassinated before he could begin his term. So all five met a violent death. 

Most of the equestrian statues (almost half of those in Mexico) portray Villa and Zapata. They are apparently seen as the real heroes of the revolution.


After the arrival of Columbus in 1492, Cuba became a Spanish colony, ruled by a Spanish governor in Havana. A series of rebellions during the nineteenth century – the Ten Years’ War of 1868–1878, resulting in the abolishment of slavery and the Cuban War of Independence from 1895 to 1898 – failed to end Spanish rule. Increased tensions between Spain and the United States, culminating in the Spanish-American War, finally led to a Spanish withdrawal in 1898. In 1902, Cuba gained formal independence. In the years following its independence, the Cuban republic saw significant economic development, but also political corruption and a succession of despotic leaders, culminating in the overthrow of the dictator Fulgencio Batista by Fidel Castro during the Cuban Revolution (1953–1959). The Communist Party has since governed Cuba as a socialist state. 

Other countries of Central America and the Caribbean

Following Columbus’s discovery of the Americas, in 1540 Spain established the Captaincy General of Guatemala, which extended from southern Mexico to Costa Rica, most of what is modern-day Central America. This lasted nearly three centuries, until a rebellion, which followed closely on the heels of the Mexican War of Independence in 1821. Central America emerged as a distinct political entity: the Federal Republic of Central America, a representative democracy modelled on the United States of America. The Republic lasted from 1823 to 1838. Its disintegration began when Honduras separated from the federation in 1838. 

A series of civil wars would follow, resulting in Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama emerging as separate states. Various attempts were made to reunite Central America in the nineteenth century, but none succeeded for any length of time. The history of the Central American states in the nineteenth and the twentieth century can be characterized as a continuous conflict between conservatives (landowners, often backed by the Catholic clergy) and liberals (and later the socialists and communists).

South America

South America has a fair number of equestrian statues. I counted almost 100 of them, more than 75 per cent of these portraying heroes of the wars of independence. Every town with some self-respect has (at least a replica of) a statue of Simón Bolívar, José de San Martin, Bernardo O’Higgins or Antonio José de Sucre. Venezuela and Argentine have ‘exported’ a number of statues of Simón Bolívar and José de San Martin, as a token of friendship between their countries and the countries visited by their presidents.

To put the statues in perspective we need a little of the history of the region.

Spain and Portugal colonized South America in the first half of the sixteenth century. This ended millennia of the independent development of indigenous cultures such as the highly developed Inca civilization. In 1494, the pope divided the continent between the two powers. The lands to the east of a defined meridian would belong to Portugal and the lands to the west, to Spain.

Lima (Peru) became the base for the Spanish royal authority over their South American territories. In 1717, the Viceroyalty of New Granada (Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela) split off, and in 1776, the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata (Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay) did so.

During the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries there were incidental uprisings against the Spanish and Portuguese colonial system, but it was only early in the nineteenth century that the Spanish colonies won their independence. Many of the South American leaders in the War of Independence received their military training in Spain and had their first war experiences fighting in the Spanish army against France in the Peninsular War.

Brazil became independent in a more peaceful way than the Spanish colonies. Fleeing the Napoleonic invasion in Portugal, the Portuguese Court moved their capital from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, which became the new capital of the Portuguese Empire. The son of the Portuguese king proclaimed the country’s independence in 1822 and became Brazil’s first emperor.


In 1776, the Spanish Crown established the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata. From there, with the Revolution of May 1810, began the process of the gradual formation of several independent states, including one called the United Provinces of Río de la Plata, which declared its independence in 1816. The defeat of the Spanish in 1824 was followed by a long civil war between the Unitarians (who believed Buenos Aires should lead the less-developed provinces) and the Federalists (who considered the country should be a federation of autonomous provinces). The dominant figure in this period was the federalist, Juan Manuel de Rosas. His reluctance to call for a new assembly to write a constitution led General Justo José de Urquiza to turn against him. He defeated Rosas and called for an assembly, which wrote the Argentine Constitution of 1853 that is still in force to this day. New land was opened for work after the expansion of national territory through the Conquest of the Desert, led by the Minister of War, Julio Argentino Roca. This harsh military campaign took most of the land, before then under control of natives, and reduced their population.

Argentina is the country with the most equestrian statues in South America: at least 26. The way Argentina has treated the statues of its rulers is remarkable. Despite the fact that some of the portrayed rulers were removed after armed conflicts and were (and in some cases still are) detested for their policies, their statues are maintained as the list hereafter will show, and unlike in most other countries, they were not destroyed by their adversaries. This may have to do with the fact that most of the statues were erected long after the death of the rulers concerned. Anyway, this has resulted in a series of equestrian statues of Argentine rulers in the fascinating capital, Buenos Aires.


As mentioned before, Brazil became independent in a peaceful way compared with other South-American countries. This was because the Portuguese Court, fleeing the Napoleonic invasion in Portugal, moved their capital from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, which thus became the new capital of the Portuguese Empire. The Portuguese king, João VI, ruled his huge empire from here for 15 years. He left his son, Pedro, in his stead as regent of Brazil when he returned to Portugal in 1821. Pedro decided one year later that Brazil should secede from Portugal and instituted a constitutional monarchy headed by himself as Emperor Pedro I of Brazil. He abdicated in 1831 and also returned to Portugal, leaving behind his five-year-old son as Emperor Pedro II. When the son was declared of age and assumed his full prerogatives, he started a more-or-less parliamentary reign, which lasted until 1889 when he was ousted by a coup d’état, which instituted the republic in Brazil.

Bolivia and Peru

Peruvian territory was home to the vast Inca Empire, extending from northern Ecuador to central Chile. After the conquest of the empire by the Spanish, the Inca population decreased from an estimated nine million in the 1520s to around 600,000 in 1620, mainly because of infectious diseases such as smallpox. Although not an organized attempt at genocide, the results were similar. 

Lima, founded in 1535 by Pizarro, became the base for the Spanish royal authority over their South American territories: the Viceroyalty of Peru. Apart from a few rebellions early in the eighteenth century, the Spanish-American oligarchy in Peru remained mostly loyal to the Spanish crown. The Viceroyalty of Peru would be the last stronghold of the Spanish dominion in South America. Peru’s movement towards independence was launched by an uprising of landowners and their forces, led by José de San Martín of Argentina and Simón Bolívar with his close friend Antonio José de Sucre, both from Venezuela. San Martín, who had displaced the Royalists of Chile some years before, led the military campaign. The independence of Peru from Spain was consolidated after the Battle of Ayacucho in 1824 in Upper Peru. The new independent republic was renamed Bolivia, in honour of Bolívar.                                                                                   

The creation in 1836 of the Peru-Bolivian Confederation caused great alarm in the neighbouring countries. The potential power of this alliance aroused the opposition of Argentina and Chile. The resulting war between the Confederation on one side and Chile, Peruvian dissidents and Argentina on the other, was fought mostly in the territory of Peru, and ended in 1839 with the defeat and consequent dissolution of the Peru-Bolivian Confederation. This was also a turning point in Bolivian history. Coups and short-lived constitutions would dominate Bolivian politics for nearly 60 years. The War of the Pacific (1879–1883) demonstrated Bolivia’s military weakness, when it lost its seacoast and the adjoining rich nitratefields to Chile.


The title of ‘discoverer of Chile’ is usually assigned to Diego de Almagro, who organized an expedition that brought him to central Chile in 1537. As he found little of value to compare with the gold and silver of the Incas in Peru, he had little interest in exploring the area further. However, Pedro de Valdivia, a captain of the army, realized the potential for expanding the Spanish empire southwards. With a couple of hundred men, he subdued the local inhabitants and founded the city of Santiago de Chile in 1541. 

The Chilean War of Independence started as an elitist political movement against colonial rule, and finally ended up as a fully-fledged civil war between pro-independence Criollos (locally born people of pure Spanish ancestry) and royalistfighters. José Miguel Carrera led Chile’s first experiment at self-government. The military-educated Carrera was a heavy-handed ruler, who triggered widespread opposition. Bernardo O’Higgins, an advocate of full independence, captained a rival faction. Spanish troops from Peru took advantage of the situation and reconquered Chile in 1814. O’Higgins, Carrera and many of the Chilean rebels escaped to Argentina. O’Higgins joined forces with José de San Martín and their combined army freed Chile, with a daring assault over the Andes in 1817, defeating the Spaniards at the Battle of Chacabuco. Chile won its formal independence when San Martín defeated the last large Spanish force on Chilean soil at the Battle of Maipú in 1818. San Martín then led his Argentine and Chilean followers north to liberate Peru.

Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela

In 1549, Bogotá was given the status of capital of New Granada, which comprised in a large part what is now the territory of Colombia. In 1717, the Spanish created the Viceroyalty of New Granada, which included modern-day Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama, making Bogotá one of the principal administrative centres of the Spanish possessions in the New World, along with Lima and Mexico City. 

In 1811, seven of the ten provinces of the Captaincy General of Venezuela declared their independence. Here, the struggle for independence was also hindered by constant conflicts and fighting between Federalists and Centralists, giving the Spanish the opportunity to keep control of all New Granada for some more time. However, in 1819 Bolívar led an army from Venezuela over the Andes and captured New Granada after a short campaign. The Congress of Angosturaestablished the Republic of Gran Colombia in 1819, which included all territories previously under the jurisdiction of the Viceroyalty of New Granada. Bolívar was elected its first president. Internal tensions initiated by José Antonio Páez led to the dissolution of Gran Colombia, with Venezuela becoming a sovereign country in 1831, and the Department of Cundinamarca a new country, the Republic of New Granada, later the Republic of Colombia.


In 1811, José Gervasio Artigas launched a successful revolt against Spain and in 1814, formed the Liga Federal, of which he was declared Protector. The steady growth of the influence and prestige of the Liga Federal frightened the Portuguese government, which did not want the League’s republicanism to spread to the Portuguese colony of Brazil. In 1816, Portuguese forces invaded the Eastern Province of the Río de la Plata (present-day Uruguay) and occupied Montevideo in 1817. After struggling for three years in the countryside, they defeated Artigas. 

Brazil annexed the Eastern Province of the Rio de la Plata under the name of Provincia Cisplatina. Supported by the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata (present-day Argentina), a militant revolutionary group, led by Juan Antonio Lavalleja, declared independence in 1825. This led to the 500-day Cisplatine War, resulting in the Treaty of Montevideoin 1828, giving birth to Uruguay as an independent state.


Over the centuries, the subcontinent of India consisted of hundreds of kingdoms, with from time to time empires rising and falling.

Beginning in the late-eighteenth century, the British East India Company annexed large areas of the country. After the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British Crown took control over India, in many cases indirectly through what were known as ‘princely states’; former kingdoms, ruled by local royal families. After gaining independence in 1947, these (565) princely states acceded to one of the new states, India and Pakistan. 

The number of equestrian statues in India is quite substantial. I was able to track down 115 of them, but there must be many more. One can find equestrian statues in almost every city of some importance. No doubt this large number has to do with the combination of British influence for more than a century, and the self-confidence of an independent, proud and powerful nation. 

India has many attractive equestrian statues it can be proud of, both from the past and from recent times. The accessibility of this national heritage to the general public could, however, be improved. Unfortunately, for example, for security reasons the Indian Parliament building in New Delhi can only be visited with written permission, which needs to be obtained via the embassy. Even if one manages to obtain this permission, it is forbidden to take pictures. This means that at least the five equestrian statues of national heroes, located in the grounds, are all but inaccessible to the general public. These statues should be moved to the avenues of New Delhi, so that everybody can admire them. The same applies to the remaining statues from the Raj period. New Delhi and Kolkata offer enough settings for these testimonies to the past. This is important for the collective national memory, even if that past is not always convenient.

Another general remark concerns the sculptors of the equestrian statues in India. In many countries it is possible to determine the name of the sculptor and the date of the statue’s unveiling, often by searching on the Internet, but not so in India. One of the Indian sculptors, B. R. Khedkar – the creator of over 400 statues – rightly raised the issue of the lack of mention of the sculptor’s name on or at some place around the statue. Very often the political leaders who inaugurate the statues are mentioned, but not so the artist.

Khedkar stated: ‘Forget about giving artists their due credit, many a time the sculptor is not even invited for the inauguration of the statue’, and ‘I was told that there is no need to mention the sculptor’s name on the plaque as the civic body pays for the work’. Add to this a typical Indian bureaucratic reaction from a municipal secretary: ‘The issue of giving credit to the sculptors must go through a prescribed procedure. It needs to be addressed during an all-party meeting followed by the final approval from the General Body.’

One Indian sculptor worth mentioning is Jasu Shilpi (1948–2013) popularly known as ‘The Bronze Woman of India’. In her career she created 225 large-sized bronze statues, among which are equestrian statues of Lakshmibai and Pratap Singh. Her sculptures have been installed not only in many Indian states, but also in the US.

The British Raj statues

The British rulers (the Raj) imported the tradition of erecting statues of themselves and their royalty. These are the oldest equestrian statues in India. The statues were created in the UK, often including the pedestal, and shipped to India

One can say that the layout of the inner cities of Kolkata, with its Maidan (open squares), and New Delhi, with its broad avenues, are pre-eminently suited to be adorned with equestrian statues. New Delhi has quite a number of statues, but no equestrian examples.. 

After independence in 1947, most of the statues of the British Raj in Kolkata and Delhi were removed, but not destroyed. There was no such thing as an iconoclasm, as there was in many other countries on becoming independent. Some statues were repatriated to the UK and some to other parts of the Commonwealth, such as Canada and Australia. Thirteen of the equestrian statues from the pre-independence period remained in India. 

Unfortunately not all of them are in public places. Five, once adorning the city of Kolkata, are located in the garden of Flagstaff House, the weekend retreat for the Governor of West Bengal in Barrackpore, and one in the garden of the Police Training Centre in the same town. 

My attempts over more than two months to obtain permission to take pictures of these statues were met only with bureaucracy and were in vain. Visiting the place and being confronted with a well-guarded entrance gate, I found a hole in the fence at the rear of the garden. <This was too tempting for me, resulting in only two pictures that I could save, as I had to delete the other ones after being caught by the guards.> There is one picture of the garden of Flagstaff House and a snapshot of one of the statues.

It is sad that the public cannot see this testimony to an important part of the history of India.

Statues of freedom fighters

After gaining independence, Indians started erecting their own statues. These can broadly be divided into two categories. First, freedom fighters against the East India Company and the British. Second, rulers and warriors who, from a modern-day perspective, are admired for their courage, wisdom and efforts for independence.

The number of equestrian statues of female heroines is quite remarkable. These include Rani Rudrama Devi, Abbakka Chowta Rani, Chennamma Rani, Tarabai and Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi.

Based on the number of statues, Chennamma and Lakshmibai are the most popular of them. It is specific to India that the permanent construction around a statue creates the opportunity to decorate it with garlands. Many statues in India are decorated in this way, but I have not seen any similar permanent constructions in other countries.

Other prominent Indians

Apart from those who resisted the British, a great number of equestrian statues have also been erected of those who – from a modern-day perspective – are admired for their courage, wisdom or struggle for independency. Most of these equestrian statues are of Basava (with at least 11 examples), Pratap Singh (with 10) and Shivaji Bhonsle (with at least 27).


Japan has no long tradition of erecting equestrian statues, and the earliest one dates from 1897. In total I was able to trace some 35 examples. The only concentration of equestrian statues is in Tokyo, where there are five. The other statues can be found all over the country. Most of them at the bottom of castles and, quite remarkably, on the squares in front of train stations. I do not know how to explain this. However, given the high reliability and frequency of the Japanese rail system, this made it easy to find them by using the train!

Finding the other statues in the countryside by car was much more difficult, as the satellite navigation system in Japan is based on finding an address by using the telephone number. Unfortunately equestrian statues do not have a telephone. Nevertheless, I was able to solve the problem with some creativity and the help of tourist service bureaus.

Japan has a long history with an imperial family that emerged around 700 and up to 1868, had high prestige, but – with a few exceptions – little power. No equestrian statues of emperors exist. This may also explain why there is no equestrian statue in the beautiful city of Kyoto, the capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years. 

Towards the end of the twelfth century, conflicts between three powerful military clans turned into civil war, the Genpei War, with the Minamoto clan emerging as the clear winner. The result of this war was a feudal system that would exist for more than six centuries. The real power in Japan during this era lay with the shogun (the de facto national ruler), the territorial lords, and the Daimyos and their warriors: the Samurai. Most of the equestrian statues in Japan portray them. 

Under the rule of the shoguns, Japan maintained a policy of isolation. This came to an end in the mid-nineteenth century, when Japan was forced to open up trade with the West. The shogunate was overthrown and the emperor restored to power, in the start of a period of fierce nationalism. The oldest equestrian statues date from that period, and often portray generals, who were in a number of cases also princes of the imperial house.

Most of the more recent equestrian statues portray shoguns, samurai and daimyos, honouring the virtues they represent – such as loyalty and familial hierarchy – or commemorating the glorious past of a region or city.

Unfortunately, in a relatively large number of cases, it was not possible to determine who the sculptor was of the statues.

The rest of Asia

Northern and Central Asia, the Asian part of Russia and the former Soviet republics 

Western Asia and the Middle East, including Iraq, Syria and Turkey

By far the majority of western Asian and Middle East countries are predominantly Islamic. Depictions of people and animals are strongly discouraged under Islam (and some other religions, for example Judaism), as they represent a form of idolatry. Any  existing monuments, even if they date from pre-Islamic times, run the risk of being destroyed by fundamentalists, even today. Therefore, it is no surprise that the number of equestrian statues in these countries is very limited, and in a number of countries they are non-existent. No equestrian statues were found in the following countries: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, the State of Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Against this background, it is quite remarkable that an equestrian statue was recently erected in Abu Dhabi (the United Arab Emirates), portraying Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nayan by Kim Corpany.

The number of equestrian statues in other countries, with the exception of the mainly Christian countries of Armenia and Georgia, and of secular Turkey, is very limited. 

The countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia have much recent history in common. All three were at some time independent, with Christianity as their main religion. The Kingdom of Armenia was actually the first state in the world to adopt this religion. All were colonized by Russia (and in the case of Armenia also by the Ottoman Empire), and all regained independence in 1918, but were later annexed by the Soviet Union, to become independent again when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990.


When I was in Syria in 2007, the equestrian statue of Saladin was being restored. Hopefully, the beautiful old city of Damascus, with its irreplaceable historical sites – such as the wonderful Umayyad Mosque – its lively and enjoyable souks and its friendly people, will be saved from the damages of the civil war.


Almost all the equestrian statues in Turkey portray Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881–1938), who is credited for being the founder of the Republic of Turkey. His surname, Atatürk (meaning ‘Father of the Turks’), was granted to him in 1934 and forbidden to be used by any other person by the Turkish parliament. Atatürk was a military officer during World War I. Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in that conflict, he successfully led the Turkish National Movement in the Turkish War of Independence. Having established a provisional government in Ankara, he defeated the forces sent by the Allies. Atatürk then embarked on a programme of political, economic and cultural reforms, seeking to transform the former Ottoman Empire into a modern and secular nation-state. Under his leadership, thousands of new schools were built, primary education was made free and compulsory, and women were given equal civil and political rights, while the burden of taxation on peasants was reduced. 

Turkey honours Atatürk with many memorials throughout the country. I identified at least seven equestrian statues of Atatürk in Turkey (and one in Japan), but I would not be at all surprised if there are many more. 

The first equestrian statue of Atatürk was sculpted in 1927 by the Austrian sculptor Heinrich Krippel, and was erected in Ankara. In the same year, another equestrian statue (by Pietro Canonica) was established in the same city.

Southern Asia, including Nepal

No equestrian statues are known to exist in the predominantly Islamic countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan,the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.


When I visited Kathmandu in 2000, the number of equestrian statues in this colourful and exotic smelling city surprised me. Although Nepal has never been a British colony, the history of the country makes it clear that its rulers had close connections with their counterparts in the British Empire. This, as well as Islam not being the dominant religion, explains the relatively high number of equestrian statues in the capital of Nepal. To put the statues in perspective, we should understand a little of the history of the country.

Nepal’s history is characterized by its isolated position in the Himalayas. Due to the arrival of disparate settler groups from outside through the ages, Nepal is now a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multilingual country. Prithvi Narayan Shahfounded the Kingdom of Nepal in 1768, which later suffered a major defeat in the Anglo-Nepalese War against the British East India Company. In the resulting treaty of 1816, nearly one third of the country (including Sikkim) was ceded to the British, in exchange for Nepalese autonomy. From 1846 until 1951, the prime ministers of the Rana dynasty ruled the country de facto. This Hindu Rajput dynasty reduced the role of the Shah monarch to that of a figurehead, and made the prime minister and other government positions hereditary. Tyranny, debauchery, economic exploitation and religious persecution characterized Rana rule. This changed in 1951 with the promulgation of a new constitution, when power shifted back to the monarchy. A struggle for democracy in the twentieth century resulted in a peace treaty signed in 2008. The royal household was ousted, elections were held, and Nepal became the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.

All the seven equestrian statues in Kathmandu were ordered and produced in England. One should realize that this meant that these heavy statues had to be carried over the mountains between Nepal and India. 

Eastern Asia, including China, Korea and Mongolia


In its thousands of years of continuous history, with kingdoms, empires and warlords, China produced many equestrian sculptures, but for unknown reasons, hardly any equestrian statues. 

The Mongol Empire defeated one of their dynasties, the Jin dynasty. This would prove to signal the start of the Yuan dynasty, which is considered to be both a successor to the Mongol Empire and an imperial Chinese dynasty. 


Nomadic tribes of the endless steppes of Mongolia, including the Turks, the Huns and the Mongols, established some of world’s largest empires. One of the reasons they were able to do so was their effective and exceptionally skilful use of horses. It is not by chance that an old Mongolian proverb is: ‘A man without a horse is like a bird without wings’. Therefore, one would expect quite a number equestrian statues in this country, which moreover has the important raw material for bronze on hand in the form of the world’s largest copper deposits. However, there are relatively few equestrian statues in Mongolia, probably as a result of the rule during the last few centuries by the Chinese and the Russians, not allowing the Mongolians to cherish their own identity. Nevertheless, this is compensated for by the fact that Mongolia is home to the world’s largest equestrian statue.

Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

The history of Southeast Asia can be characterized as an interaction between regional players and foreign powers. The Southeast Asian political model was in some ways comparable with the feudal system of Europe. States were linked in suzerain-tributary relationships. Unlike feudalism, however, the system gave greater independence to the subordinate states; it emphasised personal rather than official or territorial relationships and it was often non-exclusive. Any particular area, therefore, could be subject to several powers, or none. At the same time, opportunities and threats from the East and the West shaped Southeast Asia. The modern history of the countries within the region started independently of each other under the influence of European colonization.

The Philipinnes

The Spanish colonization of the Philippines lasted for more than three centuries. The revolution against Spain began in 1896, culminating in the establishment of the First Philippine Republic. However, the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American War, transferred control of the Philippines to the United States. The First Philippine Republic did not recognize this agreement and started the Philippine-American War in 1899. Philippine president Emilio Aguinaldo was captured in 1901, and the US government declared the conflict officially over in 1902. Commonwealth status was granted in 1935. The Treaty of Manila in 1946 finally established the Philippine Republic as an independent nation. 

Almost all the equestrian statues in the Philippines portray heroes of the Philippine Revolution against Spain and of the Philippine-American War. It is notable that a number of the statues are part of the shrines housing the remains of these heroes.

Australia and New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand have been British colonies and have never experienced any struggle for independence, or any wars in their territories. This may be the main reason that there are only eight equestrian statues in Australia, four of them portraying British kings, and the others depicting a governor, a general, a poet and a criminal. There are none in New Zealand.


There are only a limited number of equestrian statues in Africa, as Africans never had the tradition of portraying their heroes or rulers in this way. Moreover, the climate in most parts of the continent is also not favourable to bronze statues. European colonialists erected some equestrian statues, but most of these were subsequently removed. Equestrian statues of Jeanne d’Arc in Algeria were repatriated to France, where we find them now in Caen and Vaucouleur, and the same happened to the statue of Ferdinand Philippe, now in Neuilly-sur-Seine. The equestrian statue of Herbert Kitchener, once erected in Khartoum (Sudan) was removed (in this case with full ceremonial honours) once Sudan became independent, and can now be seen in Chatham (UK). The same happened to the camel-riding General Gordon, who has resided in Woking (UK) since 1959.

The toppling of the colonial statues in many cases had an emotional and symbolic meaning. The Mozambican writer Mia Couto put this into well-chosen words, when describing the fall of the Mouzinho statue in Mozambique. In a fictionalized retelling of the statues’ toppling, he describes how, as it fell, the aura which seemed to animate it evaporated:

It seemed [the statue] sighed sadly, as if Mouzinho was confiding us an infinite tiredness of posing for the myth’s portrait […] In the end, Mouzinho is just a name, a fake hero. The brutalities of domination surpass this lonely horseman. A legend was made of the soldier, and it was this tricky device that most hurt. For the stories’ narrator, the melancholic fall of the statue firmed the collapse of the colonial order: When the statue has already finished its fall, inside those Portuguese [i.e. the settlers’] eyes, horse and rider continue to tumble, now without art nor elegancy. […] There is a world that ends.


First of all I would like to warmly thank Mea, my patient travel companion, to whom this book has been dedicated. She gave me the opportunity to write this book and accompanied me on most of my travels abroad. She had to wait often patiently when I was looking for the statues and was taking pictures endlessly. We have reached our Ithaka together.

Special thanks also to my friends Caspar Broeksma and Henk Bronts for commenting on earlier versions of the manuscript and for their constructive feedback.

I am also grateful to Wessel Ganzevoort, Hans Versteeg, Wim van den Weijer and Jaap ten Wolde for stimulating me to finish the job when I needed such a stimulus.

I warmly thank also Emily Knegtel for the immense job of taking care for the contents of the website. Thanks to her the website is ready at the same time as this book.

The editing of my ‘English’ draft, changing it in real English was done through House of Words. For commercial reasons the editor’s name was not given to me, but whoever he or she was, thanks for the professionalism and the painstaking way the editing was done. 

The design of the book was in the professional and creative hands of Ronald Boiten. It was a great pleasure to work with him.

To end with, I want to express my sincere gratitude to all those involved in finding and pointing me out to the statues. Seeing an equestrian statue, wherever in the world, means for a lot of my friends and relatives thinking of me. An interesting thought.

Kees van Tilburg

Amsterdam, January 2017

As it was not possible to pay attention in this book to all the 736 statues, the 69 copies of these statues and the 192 sculptures that I have seen and photographed so far, I have built a website ( where one can find much more information and many more pictures on the subject. The website also gives the opportunity for comments. 

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