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The Quadriga in History

From 2004 to 2008 the Quadriga of the Braunschweig Palace was created anew at the same time the Palace was being rebuilt. Within the frame of this reconstruction the overall theme for the palace design which goes back to the times of the master-builder was continued.

Design and Creation of the First Quadriga

Between 1831 and 1833 Ottmer worked on the Palace design using protruding forms in “neoclassical” style. This included symbolic deities to epitomise the prudent and artistic regiment of the dukes. Ottmar had envisaged a chariot drawn by four fiery horses as highlight above the temple-like portico of the magnificent western facade. Apollo, leader of the muses, or a goddess of victory were suggested to lead the chariot. But the original palace design had to give way to the ducal willingness to save costs and the palace was therefore built between 1833 and 1841 without colonnades, architectural sculpture and the quadriga.

25 April 1856 was the 25th anniversary of the access to power of Duke Wilhelm of Brunswick and Lüneburg. The state assembly – the guild parliament- of the duchy considered great tributes for their Duke. Amongst the suggestions were equestrian statues of the Duke´s father and grandfather (realised in 1874) as well as the Quadriga to round off the Ducal Palace according to the design of Ottmer. The Braunschweig art historian Carl Schiller finally enforced the Quadriga and enlisted Ernst Rietschel (1804 – 1861) from Dresden as sculptor, who had gained fame for the Lessing statue in 1849. On 23 May 1856, Duke Wilhelm graciously accepted the small table models of the Quadriga some of which still exist today. Now the way was paved for the gigantic moulding project.

Making of the First Quadriga with ”Brunonia“

Rietschel assisted Carl Schiller and the great ore caster and copper driver Georg Howaldt from Braunschweig. As a result of their professional exchange the universal charioteer “Victoria“ was replaced by the Brunswick goddess “Brunonia“. In order to reduce the weight and to secure the gigantic figures measuring up to 9 m in height statically, the sculptors opted for a light-weight copper plate structure over an iron frame. Between December 1857 and March 1860, Rietschel, Bruno Weiske and Adolf Donndorf manufactured the 1:3 scale evenly trotting horses, the chariot adorned with leaf tendrils and the Athena-like Brunonia in Dresden. In his Brunswick workshop in the Hochstraße, Howaldt and is co-workers, amongst them his two sons, had begun in December 1858 to transfer the group into full size. At the beginning of 1863 the group had been completed, but Rietschel did not live to see the completed work.

Destruction of the First Quadriga

The first Quadriga was erected on a platform made of steel girders between June and November 1863. Unfortunately the Quadriga survived only a short time. The fire on 23 February 1865which devastated two thirds of the palace also destroyed the Quadriga almost entirely, only the head and the right index finger remained.

Creation and Loss of the Second Quadriga

Between 1866 and November 1868, Howaldt made the second, slightly smaller Quadriga, as the first one turned out too large. Whereas the Brunonia in the first Quadriga stood out from the group, she was now set lower and better embedded. The Quadriga gained fame as the symbol of the city of Braunschweig as well as through its smaller 1:2 scale version which the Brunswick metal craft guild had made for the World Exhibition in Chicago in 1893. Today, this small Quadriga is privately owned and can be viewed in Seesen.

The Ducal Palace was put to various uses after 1918 and a third of it was destroyed during WWII (1939-45). Sound outer facades and even interior rooms reflected the actual state until 1960. The Quadriga from 1866/68 had survived the war almost unscathed. However, the outer surface made out of copper plates and fixed onto the iron frame by Georg Howaldt 1866/68, became much valued ware and was stolen during the time of need in the years after the war. Bereaved of its plates only the iron frame remained of the Quadriga which was regrettably destroyed when the Place was demolished. However, none of the reconstruction plans for the palace in the decades after 1970 included the reconstruction of the huge Quadriga measuring 9 meters in height, 7.5 meters in width and 9.5 meters in length.

(Text: Dr. B.Wedemeyer, M.A.)

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