Europe

Praha

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We started to upload this photo on June 19, which, by pure coincidence, was Father’s Day. Prague is full of Judeo-Christian-themed statuary, so we initially assumed this was Abraham and Isaac doing their thing—not exactly Father’s Day material.

It turned out that this was one of a pair of pagan statues by Ferdinand Platzer, entitled The Clash of the Titans. The only Greek Titan to use a sharp weapon was Cronus, who castrated his father Uranus and tossed the testicles into the sea (to bring forth, of all goddesses, Aphrodite, the patroness of love and beauty). Still, not exactly Father’s Day material.

Either way, these statues atop the entrance to Prague Castle struck us as oddly violent—as if alerting the visitor to the castle’s endless cycles of violence, rebirth, ruin, renaissance, and destruction. No lions, sphinxes, or dead emperors in sight.

As far as we could tell, the sculptor Platzer had been completely lost in the mists of art history. Bryan’s Dictionary of 1904 listed a Johann—whose “garish pictures have nothing to recommend them but manual dexterity”—but no Ferdinand. Another 20th-century Ferdinand was famous for turning his Newark Airport restaurant into “an outpost of culinary innovation,” but seemed to have never picked up a sculptor’s chisel.

Then, just as we were about to give up… It turned out that all the English-language guide books were wrong. According to an obscure German art historian, the sculptor was Ignaz Frantz Platzer (1717-1787), a Baroque artist who ruled Bohemian sculpture from 1750 to 1770 from his apparently renowned Prager Plastik workshop.

Just goes to show, you can’t trust anything you read—except us, of course.

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