The Bronze Horseman is the most famous monument to Peter I, which has long been a symbol of our city.
It’s the prominent Russian poet Alexander Pushkin who coined the monument’s name, which soon became its most commonly used name. We have many monuments to Peter I but the Bronze Horseman is unique.
The idea of erecting a monument to Peter I belonged to Catherine II. The statue was cast to the model made by French sculptor Étienne-Maurice Falconet who was invited to Russia to work at the monument. Falconet worked in St.Petersburg for 16 years but the monument was installed after his departure in 1782. One detail is of special interest: the genius sculptor worked hard at the monument but failed to reach portrait likeness to Peter I. After several unsuccessful attempts, Peter I’s head was cast to a model made by Falconet’s apprentice Marie-Anne Collot. So, two artists are in fact responsible for the monument – the world-famous sculptor Falconet and Marie-Anne Collot, whose name is in unfair oblivion.
The monument is unusual especially for the 18th century: Peter I is portrayed in motion, his horse is on its hind legs, and Peter’s arm is stretched out above the city he had founded. The statue has only three points of support where it is fixed to the base: the horse’s hind legs and its tail connected to the serpent. The serpent trampled by the horse was made part of the composition with the only purpose of providing the third point of support and is now viewed as a symbol of Sweden defeated by Peter I and Swedish King Karl XII. Another version is that the serpent is a symbol of Peter I’s opponents.
The pedestal of the monument is also unusual. There is nothing traditional in it – it’s a natural boulder brought from the shore of the Gulf of Finland. The boulder was carefully selected and shaped to make it look like sea wave. The wave is to symbolize Peter I’s love to the sea and also remind that it’s a monument not only to a great emperor but also to a genius creator of the Russian fleet. The boulder is so famous that it has its own name Thunder Stone.
The Thunder Stone has the dedication “To Peter I from Catherine II” in Russian and Latin. The idea of the inscription belonged to Catherine II herself. The wise empress placed emphasis on her links to the great Russian emperor and continuity of rule in the country.