The German tabloid Bild just broke a story about the huge statues of horses made for Hitler by the sculptor Josef Thorak. I’d just come across Thorak’s work while looking into the symbolic role of horses under the Nazis, and seen images of his workshop, and the hefty Aryan steeds he turned out. Thorak was the sculptor chosen by Albert Speer and Hitler to decorate their gross new capital city of “Germania” with its colossal domed hall and endless triumphal avenues.
I didn’t know that two bronze “Pacing Horses” by Thorak used to stand in front of the Hitler’s chancellery in the centre of Berlin, in a place now given over to DDR-era housing and a brand new shopping mall. Bild found an image of one of the statues in place, here, with the original piece in German. Getty has a shot of the Austrian sculptor in 1942, sketching a horse from life.
According to Bild, after the fall of Berlin and the destruction of the chancellery, the horses were taken to the small town of Eberswalde, just up the road from me. At least, this is where they were next seen, in 1950, on the playing field of the local Russian barracks. Over the years they were climbed on by kids, painted gold, shot at with guns, lost their tails and had them fixed again.
They were officially re-identified by the art historian Magdalena Busshart in 1988, but weeks after she published her findings in early 1989, they disappeared. Bild speculates that the sculptures were sold by either the Russian Army or the DDR authorities (or both, working together) in order to raise some desperately needed hard Western currency. Nobody heard anything of them until two years ago, when Busshart was told that if she paid a large amount of money, she would be told their whereabouts.
This week police busting an art-theft ring found the pacing horses in a warehouse in Bad Dürkheim in western Germany – a long way from Eberswalde. They were accompanied by two Klimsch sculptures from the Reichs Chancellery gardens and a four-story high granite relief by Arno Breker. Apparently the horses have been on offer on the blackmarket for between 1.5 and 4 million euros in recent years. Now a decision has to be made as to whether they belong to the federal government or to Thorak’s estate.
Bonus points if anyone can tell me what’s being said. (How did the quarantine work? I thought you couldn’t re-export Western horses out of China…)
A “satyr” on women from the Pennsylvania Gazette, 26 November 1730, suggesting that they are created from various animals and elements including donkeys and foxes.
The Mare with a flowing mane, which was never broke to any servile toil and labour, composed an eighth species of women. Those are they who have little regard for their husbands, who pass away their time in dressing, bathing and perfuming; who throw their hair into the nicest curls, and trick it up with the fairest flowers and garlands. A woman of this species is a very pretty thing for a stranger to look upon, but very detrimental to the owner, unless it be a king or prince who takes a fancy to such a toy.
American lady riding sidesaddle in nineteenth-century Japan, as viewed by artist Yoshitori Utagawa in 1860. Care of the US Library of Congress.
If you’ve come here after reading the Washington Post piece on the revival of sidesaddle in America (now going a little viral on Jezebel.com), here’s a selection from the archives – a little bit of everything from balloonists to tragic heroines, scandalous females and zebras ridden sidesaddle. I also wrote in detail about women and girls who rode in Britain and Ireland in If Wishes Were Horses: A Memoir of Equine Obsession. Photos of the Mrs. George C. Everhart Memorial Invitational Side Saddle Race – the first sidesaddle race to take place in the US since the 1930s are here.
If you’d love to read some primary sources on women and riding in America in the nineteenth century, get thee to Archive.org to read Elizabeth Karr’s American Horsewoman and Theo Stephenson Brown’s hilarious In the Riding-School: Chats with Esmeralda. If you want to see what’s under the side saddle apron, well, here’s Eadweard Muybridge – perhaps NSFW.
As someone with a hip or two that are threatening to be arthritic, I’m glad of the sidesaddle revival as in the future it might be the only way I can ride a horse. Barbara Minneci of Belgium has been flying the flag for sidesaddle in paralympic dressage with her beautiful coloured cob, Barilla. There’s more about earlier para-sidesaddle riders in the list below.
I don’t blog much about the work I’m doing on book two, but here’s a sneak peak of something I’ll be writing about. In November I was lucky enough to have three days at the Equestrian Academy at Versailles, where they were rehearsing for this performance in the old riding school in Salzburg. The riding school was carved from the rock in 1693, and this was the first time it had had horses on its stage in over a hundred years. The music is Mozart. Choreography by Bartabas, who appears on Caravaggio (whom I last saw conked out in his stable in Versailles, legs tucked up in the straw and head resting on his chin).
I have a particular soft spot for the first cream on stage, Uccello. More about why in June 2016…
Screengrab via British Newspaper Archive.
A CRAZY HORSE
(Subject of illustration)
A horse which suddenly became crazy and dashed into a house in Albany, Illinois, a few nights ago, seems, says an American paper, to have made a decided sensation in that quiet village. A correspondent says as he was being led through the streets by his owner, Mr Backwith, he began to whirl round, and then, freeing himself, he rushed through a strong gate into the garden of Mr. Pease. Passing rapidly along he succeeded in going through three more fences, dually [sic] emerging into the opposite street. Crossing this avenue, in a direct line he went through Dr. Robinson’s dooryard fence and into the house by the front door. Mrs. Robinson was seated in the parlour, and upon perceiving her strange guest immediately fled through the rear of the building. In her momentary fright she forgot her young babe. Dr. Robinson, hearing the crash, rushed into the house just in time to save his child. Indeed not a moment too soon, for the beast had already demolished part of the crib, besides leaving a flesh wound upon the child’s face. Sewing machine, sofa, chairs, and stove soon followed, and the carpet was literally cut in pieces. Having completed his course here he turned into a bedroom, and, getting his fore feet upon the bed, soon brought it to the floor. Men rapidly collected, and ropes were thrown around his body, but they could not force him to subjection until he was severely bled. Then thirty or more men forced him home, and having tied him down they managed to keep him in the stable. He did not return to consciousness, and died about midnight the same night. The animal was valued at 3,000 dols.; and was sent from New York not long since.
Illustrated Police News, Saturday 4 July 1874 (via the British Newspaper Archive)