By Trine Møller Madsen, art and culture writer, 2006
A man on a horse...
... what’s so special about that? Visitors to the Amalienborg Palace Square are usually more interested in catching a glimpse of royalty behind the curtains or filming the guards with their bearskin hats and red sentry boxes.
But the equestrian statue of King Frederik V is there as well. And yes - it is something quite special. The statue is the focal point of the entire octagonal palace square, and cost more than the four royal palaces together!
The plinth shoots out of the ground and lifts the monarch into the sky. If you are standing on the ground and look up, the statue clearly stands out on the shining background. The sky emphasises the horse’s beauty and graceful movements. It is in full control of its forceful muscle mass.
The royal rider on the horse is not wearing a conventional costume of the year 1760. Frederik V is in fact dressed (up) in the attire of an ancient Roman military commander. Including the laurels of the victor. The King is pulled out of everyday life and placed in an entirely different era. He is staged like a hero from ancient Rome. As an immovable ideal - in all senses of the word, since the statue weighs 22 tonnes.
The King rides towards the Marble Church (Frederik Church) which is situated in front of the palace square. What is he going to do there? Confess his faith and blatantly underline his own immortality, of course!
On a mission from France
The equestrian statue was created by the French sculptor J.F. J. Saly. He was brought to Denmark with the particular mission of immortalising the popular king on horseback. With his own eyes, Saly saw the King riding around town on his daily rides. He wrote somewhere that, with his statue, he dreamed of capturing “the happy mixture of majesty and mildness”. He has succeeded with that cocktail. And he has captured much more than that.
Saly has created the ultimate representation of an absolute monarch. His magnificent specimen of an equestrian statue is considered one of the most beautiful in Europe. So don’t forget to look up and enjoy the sight next time you pass Amalienborg Palace.
Did you know?
It is not easy to move 22.4 tons of bronze horse. It required 60 sailors to maneuver the equestrian statue from the foundry at Kongens Nytorv to the place of destination in front of Amalienborg. When the statue was in place, it was acknowledged with three times 27 gun shots from the Asian Company ships and three ointments from the battalion on the square.
The committee's justification
By the Committee for Visuel Art, 2006
To portray the autocratic monarch, Saly set the image of the country’s father in a work that stretched over 14 years, and ended up being much more expensive than the four palaces that surround the statue. The equestrian sculpture appears like a jewel in an exquisite setting, and could only have been done at this time, which is why it seems marvellous that it has remained unscathed. This type of monument was often melted down into weapons as revolutions arose and erased the memories of periods that had different ideologies.