The Recurring Marly Horses

By Charles H. Meyer

Commissioned in 1739 by Louis XV for the Chateau de Marly, the Marly Horses were sculpted in marble at a slightly larger-than-life scale by Guillaume Coustou the Elder. Following the destruction of the chateau and the execution of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution, the sculptures were moved to Paris and installed at the Place de la Révolution (formerly the Place de Louis XV and currently the Place de la Concorde), where they flanked the entrance to the Champs Elysées from 1795 until 1984, when they were restored and relocated to an indoor sculpture garden at the Louvre. Concurrently, replicas were produced to replace the originals at Marly and the Place de la Concorde.

The Marly Horses’ appeal for the French people, for whom they became state treasures once seized from the royal family, was due perhaps not just to the sculptures’ formal beauty, but also to their heroic, but otherwise ideologically nonspecific character: celebrating neither gods nor kings, they simply depict a taut struggle between a man and a beast. What that primary meaning connotes may vary, although a popular reading is hinted at in their nicknames, “The Frenchman” and “The American,” which suggest a gesture of revolutionary comradery. One can equally well see them as expressions of royal majesty or, particularly during the Vichy Regime of French collaboration with the Nazis during the early 1940s, even fascist neo-classicim.

It is this flexibility of meaning that must have appealed to Hollywood set designers, who, in the 1930s and 1940s, used small, 19th-century bronze replicas of the Marly Horses to decorate everything from aristocratic homes to bourgeois office interiors to the offices and hideouts of Nazi spies. I have spotted these replicas in over twenty films so far, and, in four films, I have spotted the original sculptures (or a drawing of them) in shots of Paris. Please keep an eye out for more, and let me know of any new discoveries. I will continually update this exhibit as I discover more Marly Horse appearances.

 


Publications



"Ratting Out Big Tobacco." Cinespect. December 12, 2011.

"House of Pain." Cinespect. December 10, 2011.

"Rediscovering the French New Wave." Cinespect. December 5, 2011.

"Fifteen Minutes with You." Cinespect. November 21, 2011.

"Silent Cinema Reborn." Cinespect. November 21, 2011.

"See You Next Year: SFF Journal, Entry Fourteen." Cinespect. November 15, 2011.

"Paterfamilias in a Pinch." Cinespect. November 15, 2011.

"The Work of Love: SFF Journal, Entry Thirteen." Cinespect. November 14, 2011.

"The Duplass Era: SFF Journal, Entry Twelve." Cinespect. November 12, 2011.

"End of Story." Cinespect. November 11, 2011.

"Down into Hatch: SFF Journal, Entry Eleven." Cinespect. November 9, 2011.

"Mooring as Metaphor: SFF Journal, Entry Ten." Cinespect. November 9, 2011.

"Electrate Youth: SFF Journal, Entry Nine." Cinespect. November 7, 2011.

"Spread the Word: SFF Journal, Entry Eight." Cinespect. November 6, 2011.

"Arch Madness: SFF Journal, Entry Seven." Cinespect. November 3, 2011.

"Eau Crap: SFF Journal, Entry Six." Cinespect. November 2, 2011.

"The Wrath of Ralph: SFF Journal, Entry Five." Cinespect. November 1, 2011.

"Unbearable Brightness: SFF Journal, Entry Four." Cinespect. November 1, 2011.

"Wedding Bell Blues: SFF Journal, Entry Three." Cinespect. October 31, 2011.

"The Dueling Life: SFF Journal, Entry Two." Cinespect. October 31, 2011.

"Homeward Bound: SFF Journal, Entry One." Cinespect. October 28, 2011.

"Yawning at the Margin." Cinespect. October 20, 2011.

Film reviews of "Corman's World," "Goodbye First Love," "The Artist," and "The Descendants." Cinespect. October 14, 2011.

"Forget 'The Way.'" Cinespect. October 7, 2011.

"Pop Marx." Cinespect. October 5, 2011.

Film review of "Carnage." Cinespect. September 30, 2011.

"Baking Pans for Nigel." Cinespect. September 26, 2011.

"Cabin Fever Dream." Cinespect. September 22, 2011.

"There and Back Again." Cinespect. September 9, 2011.

"The Kid's Not All Right." Cinespect. September 2, 2011.

"Tokyo, Mon Amour." Cinespect. August 26, 2011.

"Cinespect's Guide to 'William Lustig Presents.'" Cinespect. July 15, 2011.

"Q&A with Filmmaker and Anthology Film Archives Guest Curator William Lustig." Cinespect. July 12, 2011.

"Got Freedom?" Cinespect. July 7, 2011.

"Against All Odds." Cinespect. June 23, 2011.

"A Filmable Feast." Cinespect. May 19, 2011.

"Double Trouble: Cannes Journal, Entry Five." Cinespect. May 18, 2011.

"Childhood's End, Part Two: Cannes Journal, Entry Four." Cinespect. May 14, 2011.

"Childhood's End, Part One: Cannes Journal, Entry Three." Cinespect. May 13, 2011.

"Fairy Tales for Adults: Cannes Journal, Entry Two." Cinespect. May 12, 2011.

"Setting the Scene: Cannes Journal, Entry One." Cinespect. May 11, 2011.

"The Insane Natural: An Unconscious Film Trilogy." Cinespect. February 23, 2011.

"Cubicle Rebellion, or Three Ordinary Guys with Nothing to Lose: An Unconscious Film Trilogy." Cinespect. February 7, 2011.

"The Elusive but Wonderful Films of Patricia Gozzi." Cinespect. February 4, 2011.

“La bicyclette bleue: A Gainesville-Paris Research Project.” The Satellite. Vol. 7, No. 11: November 5, 2008. pp. 14-15.

“Punch-Drunk Cinéphilia: A Review of Evan McIntyre’s Paintings at Sharab Lounge.” The Fine Print. Vol. 1, No. 3: November/December 2008. p. 10.

“Urine, Feces, and Art: A Urinary/Intestinal/Historical Tract.” The Satellite. Vol. 7, No. 9: September 3, 2008. pp. 22-23.

“The Persistence of Cookie Tins: A Review of John Patterson’s Collages at Volta Coffee.” The Satellite. Vol. 7, No. 7: July 2, 2008. pp. 15 & 21.