Winner of the Animal Statues Challenge in the 12 Great Features group and therefore featured in this group.
Featured in the Statues and Such group and
in the à EUROPA! group.
This picture is included in the Europe
Who knows where I am hanging?….Solved by Ajax
Visiting Prague I saw this strange statue. David Cerny is the artist who made this upside down Horse sculpture. A dead horse, hung by the legs from a beam, appropriately enough at the bottom or ‘bum’ end of Wenceslas Square in Prague, the meeting point of drugdealers and pickpockets. Astride the dead horse, (who seems to be a mare or a gelding, in fact), sits a representation of St Wenceslas, the patron saint of the country.
The horse is hung in the opposite direction to his role model, vertically and horizontally. Being dead, and upside down, it is sticking its tongue out at the archetype at the far and top end of the boulevard, so massive, yet elegantly balanced on just two legs.
For those who do not know the deep symbolic significance of it all, some local lore and history.
1. St Wenceslas (The “Good King” of the English Christmas carol) was a Christian who ruled the country in the 10th century. He was murdered by his half-brother Boleslav the Cruel, on his way to Church. (a snippet from my father’s English-language play for schoolchildren about Good King Wenceslas here)
2. The statue which adorns the top of Wenceslas Square is by Josef Vaclav Myslbek, whose surname is better known to Prague visitors as a modern shopping mall, Na Prikope.
3. Wenceslas Square (boulevard would be a better way to put it) used to be the city’s Horsemarket. Between 1678 and 1879, there was an equestrian statue of St Vaclav there by Jan Jiri Bendl. The Square got renamed to Vaclavske namesti in 1848, when a celebration open-air Mass was held at the statue. When the National Museum was designed at the very top en of the square, the architect sought a new statue to go with it, and a competition was formally announced in 1894, but Myslbek had been working on his piece since 1887. Myslbek was not the outright winner, but got ahead (by a nose so to speak) of the romanticised design by Bohumil Schirl, through reworking his concept into a very symbolic and national revivalist Christian patron. He added four saints, St Ludmilla (Vaclav’s grandmother), and St Prokop at the front, St Vojtech and St Agnes at the back. The equestrian statue was finished in 1912, the entourage added gradually to complete by 1922, the year Myslbek died. The statue, which carries around the plinth the emotional motto, “St Wenceslas, leader of the Czech lands, do not let us or our descendants perish” has served as a rallying point during all subsequent times of crisis and triumph. Curiously, St Agnes was canonised to sainthood only in November 1989, days before the Velvet Revolution.
4. Legend has it that St Wenceslas and his knights are sleeping underneath Blanik Mountain in Central Bohemia, and when the going gets really tough, they’ll come charging out to vanquish all our foes.
5. In reality, the nearest Blanik is the cinema near the statue, currently showing American Pie – and ordinary cinemagoers come charging out, nights, to get to the metro, probably having slept through the film.
6. The Myslbek statue is undoubtedly the meeting point in Prague. Meetings are variously arranged ‘by the horse’ or ‘under the tail’, perhaps to reflect the nature of the rendez-vous. (Ocas or ‘tail’ is, like the German Schwanz, an alternative slang word for a gent’s reproductive accoutrement. Aletrnative to "bird’’, as in the Pushkin reference at the beginning, or the American giving thereof)
So the rotationally symmetrical arrangement of Cerny’s equestrian statue is a contrast and a provocation in more ways than one. It might become the alternative meeting point and wreak havoc in ordinary Burghers’ meeting schedules, if it stays up a while.
Meanwhile, the possibilities for interpretation are virtually endless. In some ways this is a self-portrait of the artist, in that he is once again taking advantage of an absurd situation, riding the absurdity to triumph. So far, no graffiti. The petitbourgeois don’t express their disapproval that way. But there is plenty of tut-tutting going on.
Nowadays it hangs in the Lucerna Palace, kind of a shopping center, near Wenceslas Square in Prague.
Camera Canon 350D
Canon Zoom lens EF-S 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 II USM
Exposure time 1/10s
Aperture value f5.6
Focal length 24mm