The equestrian statue of King Henry IV (Statue équestre de Henri IV) on the Place Dauphin at the New Bridge has become a symbol of a new stage in the development of forms of monumental art and a monument with a very interesting history.
The first king of the Bourbon dynasty, Henry IV, made an enormous contribution to strengthening the unity of France and achieving reconciliation of his subjects. The Edict of Nantes, signed by him in 1698, put an end to years of confrontation over issues of faith between Protestants and Catholics.
Henry IV also became the first French ruler who was seriously concerned about urban planning problems in the capital and sought to regulate the construction of new buildings according to pre-drawn projects and plans.
Vicissitudes of history
The history of the monument to Henry IV is long and not common. Queen Maria de Medici expressed the idea of erecting a monument to her husband in 1604, even before his death at the hands of a religious fanatic in 1610. She commissioned the Italian sculptor Giovanni Gianbolone to sculpt the statue, but he could not complete it due to the death that overtook him in 1608. Graduated from her assistant sculptor Pietro Tacca.
The monument to the king was erected in 1614 on a square in the western part of the island of Site near the New Bridge. When it was installed, several centuries-old traditions of French culture were violated at once. It was the first monument in Paris to be erected in an open public space, rather than in a passageway between buildings or near one of the walls.
The large marble pedestal for the monument was designed by the architect Pierre Frankville. He also partially executed two side bas-reliefs, depicting scenes of the entry of the King of France into the capital city and the distribution of food to the inhabitants of Paris. The entire pedestal was completed by Francesco Bordoni in 1618, and the monument itself was finally completed only by 1635. The latest additions to it are the statues of four slaves at the corners of the pedestal.
In the early years of the French Revolution, the monument to Henry IV remained almost untouched by the rebellious people. The only "artistic" addition to the monument was the cockade painted in the colors of the tricolor. However, during the years of the Jacobin Terror, the statue of the monarch was thrown from the pedestal and sent to the smelting furnace.
"Reincarnation" of the monument
The monument to Henry IV was restored after the Restoration of the Bourbon dynasty in 1818. A replica of the king's equestrian statue was cast in bronze after a sculptural model by François Lemotte. The author of the monument, while working on the statue, tried to reproduce the original with all the previous details. Henry IV is depicted on a prancing horse in armor with a laurel wreath on his head and a staff with royal lilies in his right hand.
A small cavity has been left inside the statue. The sculptor F. Lemot placed medals, three books about the king and cases with parchment sheets in it. They set out the history of the reign of Henry IV, there was also a copy of the document on the construction of the original monument, a description of the history of its restoration, and a list of all people involved in this was attached.
Remaining a faithful Bonapartist, F. Lemot also placed a small statuette of Napoleon Bonaparte in the cavity. Centuries later, she and historical documents were transferred to the museum and the National Archives of France.
The restoration did not affect only four sculptures of captives, which stood until 1792 at the corners of the pedestal. They symbolize the cardinal points and the power of the monarch. The young man leaning on a tortoise shell is associated with the south and Africa, and the bearded old man personifies the barbarians of the North. After the 18th century revolution the sculptures were placed in the museum halls of the Louvre and no longer left its walls.
The material for the sculpture of Henry IV was the metal obtained after the statue of the first French emperor was overthrown from the Vendôme column. The molten bronze of the monument to Napoleon I again took on the forms of the first king of France from the Bourbon dynasty.
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