Cavalli di Bronzo in Naples, Italy

On the gateposts of the Royal Palace of Naples stands a pair of grooms tending to their horses. These often overlooked bronze sculptures are no work of the Renaissance, let alone Ancient Rome, but of Imperial Russia.

The original pieces were created in 1851 and stand on the Anichkov Bridge in Saint Petersburg to this day. The “Horse Tamers” are one of the best-known works by sculptor Peter Clodt von Jürgensberg, a favorite of Emperor Nicholas I. It is said that the emperor once praised his artistic prowess, remarking that he “creates horses finer than any prize stallion does.”

But how did these bronze stablehands come to adorn Naples’s royal palace? The story goes back to December 1844, when the tsar’s wife visited the city for a therapeutic trip. It went quite well and was so satisfactory for her that Emperor Nicholas II was prompted to send a thank-you gift to King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies, commissioning Clodt to make a copy of his masterpiece.

Two more copies were made and sent to the King of Prussia as well as to the Peterhof Palace in Saint Petersburg, but Clodt decided not to make any more around 1850. Out of the four, the Naples sculptures are unique in their backgrounds and what they stand far, far away from the former capital of the Russian Empire.

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