Archive for the ‘Art Myths’ Category

Bronze Warriors, Horses’ Hooves, and El Cid

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Anna Hyatt Huntington's El Cid

Anna Hyatt Huntington's El Cid

There may or may not be a correlation between the number of raised forelegs of a bronze horse and the fate of its rider.  Perhaps a code exits among bronze artists governing how to depict a warrior and his/her steed. Or perhaps not.

Cecil Adams at investigates whether the number of raised feet of the horse carrying a war hero depicted in bronze statues corresponds to how the warrior died: four feet on the ground means the hero did not die in battle, one raised foot means the hero was wounded in battle, two raised forelegs means he was killed in battle. Is it a code which artists follow in sculpting war heroes? Adams doesn’t find a tight connection even in the statues at Gettysburg. Neither does a review of military statures on

So when I noticed that the statue of El Cid Campeador by Anna Hyatt Huntington in San Diego’s Balboa Park had one raised foreleg, I looked up El Cid to find out how he died.

At the time of his death in 1099, Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, El Cid, ruled Valencia, Spain. Some sources say he died from a stray arrow, some from an arrow in his heart. Some say from poor health. Some say only that he died. So it’s not clear if the horse’s raised foreleg on Anna Hyatt Huntington’s statue indicates anything at all regarding wounds in battle.

But the raised foreleg is very dramatic and El Cid is definitely leading a battle charge. It’s a great military statue!

Anna Hyatt Huntington was born March 10, 1876 and died October 4, 1973. She was an American sculptor whose works of animals and human figures are displayed throughout the world. Her husband was the very rich American, Archer Milton Huntington who founded the Hispanic Society of America, endowed its museum, and founded the Mariners’ Museum in Virginia. He also wrote an account of the life of El Cid which won him membership in the French Academy.

El Cid Campeador was presented to San Diego by the trustees of the Hispanic Society of America, July 5, 1930.

See how it all connects. Amazing where horses hooves will lead.

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