At the Senate Square in Saint Petersburg, Russia, stands a magnificent equestrian statue of the founder of St Petersburg, Peter the Great. Known as the Bronze Horseman, after a classic poem by Alexander Pushkin, the statue was commissioned by Catherine the Great as a tribute to her famous predecessor. Being a German princess who married into the Romanov line, Catherine had no legal claim to the throne and wanted to represent herself as Peter's rightful heir. Anxious to connect herself to Peter the Great to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the people, she hired French sculptor Étienne Maurice Falconet for the job. The statue was unveiled in 1782 and portrays Peter the Great sitting heroically on his horse, his outstretched arm pointing towards the River Neva. The horse is seen trampling a serpent, variously interpreted to represent treachery, evil, or the enemies of Peter and his reform. The statue itself is splendid, but it’s the pedestal on which it stands that interests me more.
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The Bronze Horseman. Photo: Matt Malto/Flickr