The Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius is an ancient Roman statue in the Campidoglio, Rome, Italy. It is made of bronze and stands 4.24 m tall. Although the emperor is mounted, it exhibits many similarities to standing statues of Augustus. The original is on display in the Capitoline Museums, with the one now standing in the open air of the Piazza del Campidoglio being a replica made in 1981 when the original was taken down for restoration.
The overall theme is one of power and divine grandeur — the emperor is over life-size and is holding out his hand in a gesture much like that in the Augustus' portraits. In this case the gesture may also signify clemency as some historians assert that a fallen enemy may have been sculpted begging for mercy under the horse's raised hoof (based on accounts from medieval times which suggest that a small figure of a bound barbarian chieftain once crouched underneath the horse's front right leg). Such an image was meant to portray the Emperor as victorious and all-conquering. However, shown without weapons or armor, Marcus Aurelius seems to be a bringer of peace rather than a military hero, for this is how he saw himself and his reign. He is riding without the use of stirrups, which had not yet been introduced to the West.
Although there were many equestrian imperial statues, they rarely survived because it was the common practice to melt down bronze statues for reuse as coin or new sculptures in the late empire. Statues were also destroyed because medieval Christians thought that they were pagan idols. The statue of Marcus Aurelius was not melted down because in the Middle Ages it was incorrectly thought to portray the first Christian Emperor Constantine. Indeed, it is the only fully surviving bronze statue of a pre-Christian Roman emperor.
In the medieval era it was one of the few Roman statues to remain on public view. In the 8th century it stood in the Lateran Palace in Rome, from where it was relocated in 1538 to the Piazza del Campidoglio (Capitoline Hill) during Michelangelo's redesign of the Hill. Though he disagreed with its central positioning, he designed a special pedestal for it. The original is on display in the Palazzo dei Conservatori of the Musei Capitolini, while a replica has replaced it in the square.
On the night of November 29, 1849, at the inception of the revolutionary Roman Republic, a mass procession set up the Red-White-Green tricolore (now Flag of Italy, then a new and highly "subversive" flag) in the hands of the mounted Marcus Aurelius.
Allegedly the Equestrian Statue of King George III of England which stood in New York City's Bowling Green until 1776 when it was thrown down and the lead turned into musket balls for George Washington's army was based upon the Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius.
|Equestrian Sculpture of Marcus Aurelius, Smarthistory|
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