Grunewald Hunting Lodge / 1814

The Quadriga – Berlin’s Emblem

After the victory over Prussia and his march into Berlin in 1806, France’s Emperor Napoleon I had the Quadriga atop of the Brandenburg Gate ‒ the four-horse drawn chariot emblem crowning the city’s best-known landmark ‒ taken down, packed up and transported to Paris as a spoil of war. It was earmarked to embellish another (French) triumphal arch.

Only after Napoleon was defeated could the famous team of horses return home. In 1814 Prussian troops found the figural group designed by Johann Gottfried Schadow still packed in crates in the French capital. Led by Field Marshal Blücher, the sculptural work was sent on its homeward journey, and its transport with a special escort turned into a veritable triumphal procession. In June 1814, the wagons reached Grunewald Hunting Lodge, located near the outskirts of Berlin.

Public esteem for the Quadriga increased considerably. The perceived humiliation, combined with the important sculpture’s eight-year absence and triumphant return, all packaged and presented with a fair amount of propaganda, brought this about. Prussia’s King Frederick William III had the goddess outfitted with the Iron Cross, designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, to give visual expression to the work’s extraordinary significance. The Iron Cross took its place as a badge of honour in the previously unadorned oak leaf wreath on the standard staff (signum manipuli), which the goddess Victoria carries in her right hand. A Prussian eagle shown about to take flight was added above the oak wreath.

The redesign and the restoration of the Quadriga took place on the grounds of Grunewald Hunting Lodge. By including these additional symbols, the figure of the former peace bringer was transformed into a victory goddess. As King Frederick William III rode through the Brandenburg Gate at the head of his Prussian troops on 7 August 1814, the Quadriga once again crowned Prussia’s triumphal arch.

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