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Józef Poniatowski, 1826-1827
Plaster. 463 cm
Inventory number: A123
Works, relating to this work: Thorvaldsen, Józef Poniatowski, bronze cast, erected 1846 at the estate Homel, from 1923 on the Saxon Square, now in front of the Presidental Palace, Warsaw, PolandEnlarge photo
Modelled 1826/27 with a view to its being erected in bronze in Warsaw. Poniatowski was a Polish statesman and general. In the struggle for his country’s independence he took the side of Napoleon against the Russians and their allies. At the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, in which the French were defeated, Poniatowski was badly wounded and bravely chose to drown rather than be taken prisoner. With this, Poland had been given a heroic freedom fighter who deserved a monument, and although the country had come under Russian suzerainty after the defeat of Napoleon, the Poles still had sufficient independence to be able to commission an equestrian statue of Poniatowski from Thorvaldsen. The commission was for a work in the style of the famous ancient statue of Marcus Aurelius on the Capital in Rome, and that was indeed the result, though it was long in coming. For the casting of the statue in bronze coincided with the so-called November Rising in Warsaw in 1830 and had to be postponed as the furnaces in the foundry were needed to make guns. The Russians put down the rising. The statue could now be cast, but the political will on the part of Russia to accept the erection of Polish national monuments was no longer there. So the statue was put aside, and only when Poland again emerged as an independent country after the First World War was it possible to unveil the monument to Poniatowski in Warsaw in 1923 – more than a century after Thorvaldsen had received the commission. The statue was blown up in 1944, but it was replaced by a new one, made 1948-51 after this original model. The new version was a gift from the Danish government and Copenhagen municipality to the city of Warsaw. It was unveiled in 1952.