02 January 2017

The lion (and pig) of Lucerne


The Lion Monument (German: Löwendenkmal), or the Lion of Lucerne, is a sculpture in Lucerne, Switzerland, designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen. It commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris, France. The American writer Mark Twain (1835–1910) praised the sculpture of a mortally-wounded lion as "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.”...
The monument is dedicated Helvetiorum Fidei ac Virtuti ("To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss"). The dying lion is portrayed impaled by a spear, covering a shield bearing the fleur-delis of the French monarchy; beside him is another shield bearing the coat of arms of Switzerland. The inscription below the sculpture lists the names of the officers, and approximate numbers of the soldiers who died (DCCLX = 760), and survived (CCCL = 350)...
Before completing the monument, the artist, Bertel Thorvaldsen, was told that not enough money had been raised to pay for his services and that he would not be fully paid for his work. Thorvaldsen wanted to make a public statement about his disdain for the situation. Out of respect for the fallen soldiers he chose not to damage the sculpture itself and decided instead to change the shape of the nook the lion lay inside. The outside edge remains in the shape of a pig to this day; a subtle but clear message of his feelings..
More details in a pdf at Luzerne.

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