Alexander III monument
Paolo Trubetskoi’s statue of Tsar Alexander III (1881-1894) was originally unveiled on the Znamenskaya square outside the Nicholas (now Moscow) Railway Station in 1909.
The sculptor worked with the monument 8 years, he created 14 versions, and two of them were life-sized.
The original idea for the monument came from Count Sergei Vitte, who suggested a competition in which sculptors would anonymously submit designs to be exhibited in the Winter Palace. Nicholas II, the Emperor at the time, his mother and his family inspected the submitted work and picked the winner together with a group of art specialists.
The sculpture created controversy that is still alive to this day. A massive corpulent body of the tsar in baggy clothes did not go well with many people. However, it is said that Nicholas II, his son who ordered the monument, was pleased with it.
The first thing a traveller sees on arriving at St. Petersburg is what the Russians call "the ugliest statue in the world." It is a figure of Alexander the Third, on horseback. The horse has a very short tail, and the man is fat and hideous. A soldier is always on guard within the enclosure, I suppose to see that no one takes the statue away.
Fenn, R J. An Englishman in Russia. Notes of a trip made in 1910.
His brother, Grand Duke Vladimir Aleksandrovich, however, was disgusted with what he saw and regarded it as a caricature. In later years, though, he softened his criticism, without ever fully accepting the statue.
Fortunately, with a passage of a little time people made their peace with it and some began to find artistic merit in it. Repin, the famous painter, even called it an outstanding artistic achievement.
Count Sergei Vitte, Memoirs
Removed in 1937, it stood for many years in the courtyard of the Russian Museum. The monument now stands in front of the Marble Palace, in the spot once occupied by Lenin’s armored car.
This is not a legendary crowned hero, nor a rider striving to vast expanses but a man who presses - crushes down his steed with his bulky form. A deserved monument to a monarch who despised his own nation enough to bridle all its initiatives in his short-sighted, obstinate obsession with selfish dynastic interests.
Alexander Benois, Diary