Standing atop the great Thunderstone in St Petersburg in Russia is a great bronze sculpture known as the Bronze Horseman. It is of Peter the Great a noble Russian Tsar and was commissioned by another “the Great” Tsarina Catherine. It is one of the greatest works ever made and is based in part on a famous poem written about the Russian leader. The Thunderstone is twenty-five feet tall. Its commissioning has a tale behind it but if you’d like to see some more homegrown and local examples of Bronze Wildlife Sculptures then taking a look at Bronze Wildlife Sculptures from Gill Parker would be a rather good idea. Let's look at this stunning work and how it came to be there.

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The Bronze Horseman is an essential part of St Petersburg that stands in the Senate Square where it has pride of place. It was commissioned by Catherine the Great in an attempt to link herself with the Romanov family. She was German but knew that to survive as a figurehead of Russia she needed a link. Catherine had been brought to power via a coup and wasn't actually in line to the throne at all. She purposely chose an epitaph on the Thunderstone that reads, in English, “Catherine the Second to Peter the First” this showed to the people her great love and respect for her predecessor and also that she was his natural heir.

Taking some advice, she asked the great French sculpture Falconet to design the statue. He took the project on with enthusiasm as did his assistant Miss Marie Anne Collmot. Young Marie was responsible for the face of Peter and she showed scrupulous detail by copying his death mask and wandering the palace of St Petersburg taking careful note of the many portraits there were to him. The work continued on the statue but a massive falling out between the Ekaterina and Falconet meant that he did not get to be there at the unveiling. By this point, she was apparently past caring about his feelings and was making it clear that it was all her idea anyway.

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The project almost ended in disaster right at the beginning when the bronze mold ruptured and started spewing molten bronze everywhere starting a series of fires. One brave assistant stayed to save it so that the mold could be used again. The molding and sculpting took twelve years. The Thunderstone is also an incredible sight. It is steeped in myth, it is believed that it was separated by a lightning strike. The only way to move this was to prise it out of the frozen ground around the Gulf of Finland and put it on Bronze sledge blades. It was then literally dragged to the ship to be sent to St Petersburg. Once there it was again dragged using the sledge system to where the sculpture was placed upon it. At no point were animals used it was all done human brute force. This is a very Russian thing to do.


Published by Sunil Pandey