If you find yourself in the Swiss city of Lucerne, one of the most unmissable monuments to visit is without a doubt the sculpture of the famous Lion, carved out of an old large sandstone quarry. One of the most realistic and appreciated sculptures in Europe, the Lion of Lucerne is a monument to the memory of the Swiss guards who, during the French Revolution, fell to honor the King of France to whom they responded and who had preferred to defend the kingdom rather than dishonor the oath.
image credit: Pxfuel
At the beginning of the 19th century, Lieutenant of the Swiss Guard Carl Pfyffer von Altishofen began to think of creating an impressive sculpture to pay homage to the soldiers who fell during the French Revolution, but the realization did not take place until the final fall of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, while Switzerland was still under French rule. It was the time of the fall of Napoleon and the “restoration” of the French monarchy that convinced the lieutenant to finally entrust the work to the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen.
image credit: jpellgn/Flickr
Very famous and in great demand at the time, Thorvaldsen willingly accepted the job entrusted to him by the former lieutenant of the Swiss Guard, even if the Danish artist was unaware of detail: the Swiss officer had not all the money needed to pay for the sculpture. The relationship between the two became rocky for the same reason, but Thorvaldsen nonetheless decided to finish the job, applying seemingly “invisible” changes.
The sculpture of the Lion of Lucerne, later sculpted by the artists Pankraz Eggenschwyler and Lucas Ahorn, was completed in 1821 as we see it today: in a niche dug in an old sandstone quarry, there is a lion dying pierced by a spear, while a paw of the animal rests on a shield bearing the fleur-de-lis of the French monarchy, and next to it is another shield with the coat of arms of Switzerland. But if you take a close look at the shape of the niche, you will notice something else …
image credit: Churchil Angelio / Flickr
Indeed, the sculptor Thorvaldsen traced on the contours of the niche the characteristic silhouette of a pig , like an “invisible” mockery for those who had wanted to sponsor the work without warning him beforehand that there was no not enough funds for the full payment of the extraordinary work of artistic sculpture.
If you were to make a detour to the city of Lucerne in the future, definitely visit the City’s Lion … overlooked by the silhouette of a pig!