I have read that they are not even bronze, but rather “fused iron.” Since the only metallurgist I know is too busy smelting at the moment to explain the difference to me, I shall continue to call them “bronze” just the way Neapolitans do —quite simply, they are the cavalli di bronzo, the “bronze horses.” The term refers to the two statues mounted on the pillars of the east entrance to the gardens of the Royal Palace in Naples. That is not exactly an out of the way spot, but the average tourist gaze is likely to sweep past it and focus on the huge Maschio Angioino castle right across the way; thus, people tend not to pay too much attention to these statues—to my knowledge, the only obvious chunks of Imperial Russia on display in Naples.
the statues are called i
domatori di cavalli—the horse tamers. They are
the work of Russian sculptor Peter Clodt von Jürgensburg (1805-67) and are similar to
two of the sculptor’s four statues on the Anichkov bridge
over the Fontanka river in St. Petersburg. Strictly
speaking, the Neapolitan horses are not copies, not
replicas of the statues in Russia, but similar to them
and, in fact, predate the ones on the Russian bridge. In
the early 1840s, Clodt von Jürgensburg did the original
four for the bridge, at which point Czar Nicolas I told
the sculptor that he “made finer horses than any prize
stallion does.” The Czar liked the statues so much that he
gave them away as gifts: two went to Prussian King
Frederick William IV and are still in the Heinrich von
Kleist park in Berlin. The other two came to Naples as a
gift to Ferdinand II in 1846 on
the occasion of a state visit by the czar to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
The sculptor then cast four definitive versions of his
Horse Tamers for the bridge in St. Petersburg; they were
installed in 1851 and are still there, having survived
even the ravages of World War II.
[see large image
of the Anichkov Bridge, below)
There was a reason for the good relations
between Imperial Russia and the Kingdom of Naples in the
1840s that impelled the czar to give away two of his prize
monuments. Czar Nicolas’ grandfather, Czar Paul I, had
signed Russia up in the so-called “Second Coalition
(formed in 1798) against the forces of Republican France.
The other members of the Coalition were Great Britain,
Austria, Portugal, Naples and, surprisingly, Turkey (the
Ottoman Empire). For a while, then, the Russian and Turks
put aside their centuries of dispute to make common cause
against the French. A joint Russo-Turkish fleet joined the
forces of Admiral Nelson in the southern Mediterranean.
The immediate goal was to dislodge the French-supported Neapolitan Republic (proclaimed
in January, 1799) and reinstall the Bourbon monarchy to
the throne of Naples. A body of five- or six-hundred
Russians and Turks landed on the Adriatic coast, having
crossed from Corfu, to assist the Royalist forces under Ruffo in retaking the kingdom. They
were successful, and the Russian and Turkish commanders
both signed the armistice agreement by which the Bourbons
(in this case, King Ferdinand I) were restored in Naples.
One grandfather had helped another, and both grandsons
were now still absolute monarchs, still resisting the
gathering forces of reform at mid-century. That’s worth a
couple of statues.
This is a
19th-century lithograph of the Anichkov Bridge in St.
Petersburg showing the four horses.
The artist and lithographer was Joseph-Maria Charlemagne-Baudet) (1824-1870), a Russian
and known there as Iosif Iosifovich Charlemagne. added Jan 2016