The Quadriga’s Horses


The Quadriga atop the Wellington Arch
Hyde Park Corner
London, U.K.
photo from Wikimedia Commons

The final punctuation of Jenkins infatuation with Barbara Goring occurs near another monument, a few hundred yards from the Achilles statute where it began.  Walking with Widmerpool, who is describing his own feelings for Barbara to Nick’s dismay,  they arrive at Grosvenor Place, “in sight of the triumphal arch, across the summit of which, like a vast paper-weight or capital ornament of an Empire clock, the Quadriga’s horses, against a sky of indigo and silver, pranced desperately towards the abyss.” [BM 89/82]

Empire Clock, ormulu, showing Minerva driving the chariot of Diomedes, ~1810
Empire Clock, ormulu, showing Minerva driving the chariot of Diomedes, ~1810,
photo from Gavin Douglas Fine Antiques Ltd.

Empire clocks, which orginated during the reign of Napoleon, are mantel clocks incorporating elaborate sculptures, often of ormulu bronze. “Pendules au char” are a variety of Empire clocks with chariot sculptures. In October, 2013, we found one for sale on eBay with an elegant clock face forming the wheel of the chariot.

Nick identified the Empire-clock-type ornament as a quadriga or chariot pulled by four horses, a traditional symbol of victory. Examples are numerou,s including sculptures topping the Bradenburg Gate in Berlin (1793), the Arc de Triomphe in Paris (1815), others in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Rome, Munich, Brussels, and so on. The quadriga sculpture at Hyde Park Corner sits atop the Wellington Arch, completed in 1827 to commemorate Wellington’s victory over Napoleon. This Quadriga, reputedly the largest bronze sculpture in Europe, was designed by Adrian Jones in 1912, and shows the Angel of Peace driving the Quadriga of War, which is led by a small boy.

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