Equestrian Statue of King Rama V


Location :
Located at the centre of Dusit Palace Plaza, Dusit, Bangkok.
Age :
Built in 1907 during the reign of King Rama V.
Type of Monument :
Unregistered monument.


On the occasion of the 42nd anniversary of King Chulalongkorn’s accession to the throne in 1908, becoming Thailand’s longest-reigning monarch at the time, the royal family, high-ranking officials and the appreciative people held a Rajamangalabhisek ceremony to celebrate. King Vajiravudh, then the Crown Prince, sat as the head of the Event Committee and stated in the presence of all ministers:
"...urge all Siamese people, regardless of their race or language, to show gratitude to our beloved King by donating money, as much or as little as they are capable, to be offered as a "cash gift" for the King's private expenses."
While fundraising was going on at home, King Chulalongkorn was paying his second visit to Europe. The Event Committee learned that the King was impressed by the equestrian statue of King Louis XIV which stood in a plaza at the Palace of Versailles in France. At one time, the King even stated that it would be dignified to have an equestrian statue of himself erected in the plaza between Anatra Samakhom Throne Hall and Ratchadamnoen Road. The ministers agreed that the statue should be built as the King wished. And so, the Crown Prince requested permission from the King to fashion the statue in the same style as that of Louis XIV, just as he desired.
Once the matter was decided, King Chulalongkorn, who was in Europe at the time, arranged the details of the statue including the material for the statue himself. The commission for the statue went to a Parisian foundry Susse Fres Fondeur. On 20 June 1907, the King had his photos taken for the model statue. He recorded in one of his letters to his daughter, Princess Nibha Nobhadol:
"At 4 o'clock, I left the embassy to have my photos taken for the statue. They wanted photos of all four sides of me in uniform. However, the uniform is not ready today. It was sent to a tailor as a sample for them to make a new one because the old one has become too small for me. Not only because I have gained weight, but also because the underclothing is thick. The studio where I was going to have my photos taken is in the city; I doubted that they would do a good job. I heard they take superb photos in Strasbourg. But that could waste a lot of time. So I went to the place that I said I didn't want to go. They wanted to take my photos on the seventh floor, counting from the ground level up to the rooftop, because of better lighting. Luckily there was a lift, and I took it straight to the seventh floor. Duke and Charoon who were with me were less fortunate. They had to walk up the stairs, which exhausted them both. The photographer took my photos for the statue, all four sides, and then asked for more photos for the studio."
Later, on 22 August 1907 while still in Paris, the King visited the foundry to sit for the original clay sculpture. He asked the sculptor to adjust the features on the sculpture until he was completely satisfied. In letter number 35 in the same series of correspondence, the King wrote:
"The foundry is one block away from the main road. They made the horse beautiful, but the figure above, not so much. Too thin. This is because they used the King of Spain as a model. So my statue has not progressed as I would have liked, both for the equestrian statue and the miniatures. They cannot sculpt it accurately from the photos either. The light and shadow just ruin all the features. On the small model, the face looks flat, and on the big model, the cheeks look extremely thin and they made the lips look swollen. But the sculptor is really good. As soon as I sat, he grabbed the clay and adjusted the model. He fixed the head first, then the face, filling the sunken cheeks and temples, reducing the jaw and the brow; but the mouth still looks odd. At first I was a little angry that I had to sit still for a long time, but after a few minutes, it became quite enjoyable watching him work..."
The statue of the horse was not sculpted from an actual royal steed, but developed from a common model that the foundry already had.
After the work was done, the foundry packed all the parts into crates and shipped them to Siam with some technicians to assemble the statue at Dusit Palace Plaza.
Once the auspicious day of the Rajamangalabhisek ceremony arrived on 11 November 1908, the Crown Prince, representing the people of Thailand, presented the statue to the King, who then unveiled it.

Value and Significance

The statue is the first Western-style monument in Thailand.

Statues commemorating a person were customarily built posthumously, however the Equestrian Statue of King Rama V was built per the request of the King himself and construction took place during his reign. The King visited France to sit for the original clay mold, as well as dedicating the unveiling of the monument himself.

Architectural and Artistic Features

The statue is 1.5 times larger than life size. Made from cast bronze, the statue has the King sitting astride a horse, wearing a field marshal’s uniform. His right hand, resting on the horse’s back, carries a three-headed elephant royal sceptre while his left hand holds the bridle. A sword hangs from his left side. The statue sits atop a 6-metre tall, 2.5-metre wide, and 5.5-metre long marble pedestal. The pedestal in turn sits on a metal base 3.5 metres in width and 6.5 metres long. The upper part of the base is decorated with metal carved into rowels, tridents, a Western vine pattern, and kodshasri (an elephant and lion-like mythical creature) and rashasi (a lion-like mythical creature) on either side. At the bottom of the base is engraved the name of the foundry "SUSSE Fres FOUNEURS. PARIS". On the marble pedestal, there is a metal sheet engraved with the King's biography, royal duties and a blessing in Thai. There are metal poles surrounding the pedestal area decorated with Thai leaf patterns, and the emblem of Thailand.

Preservation and Restoration

  • In 2012, technicians from the Office of Construction and Restoration, Department of Public Works, together with the Bangkok Municipal Administration and Marble Renewal (Thailand) Co. Ltd., carried out restoration work on the marble and granite. Technicians filled the cracks in the marble, installed cornices on the pedestal, and cleaned the statue and other metal parts. The restoration was supervised by Chaiporn Srikong, Head of Technicians, Office of Construction and Restoration, Department of Public Works. Marble Renewal was hired by the city of Bangkok for the preservation job.
  • In 2014, the Fine Arts Department initiated an even bigger restoration project to return the statue back to its original glory. The statue had been damaged by air pollution from cars and incense burning, candle wax, sunlight and carbon monoxide. The responsibility went to the cast metal sculpture experts at the Department of Ten Crafts under the Fine Arts Department. The statue went through a series of restoration procedures including repairing and cleaning the statue, fixing the missing patterns and filling the missing parts. The gold leaves gilded on the leaf pattern at the base were wiped off and the metal sheet, as well as the front part of the base, were cleaned. Ten of the metal poles and all of the chains were replaced and strengthened. The surrounding area was also redesigned, and decorated with plants and lights.

พระบรมรูปมีขนาดใหญ่กว่าพระองค์จริงหนึ่งเท่าครึ่ง หล่อด้วยสัมฤทธิ์ ทรงฉลองพระองค์ด้วยเครื่องยศจอมพลทหาร เสด็จประทับหลังม้าพระที่นั่ง พระหัตถ์ขวาพาดอยู่บนหลังม้า ทรงถือคทาจอมทัพช้างสามเศียร พระหัตถ์ซ้ายรั้งบังเหียน มีพระกระบี่ห้อยอยู่ทางซ้าย

ด้านซ้ายเป็นชื่อบริษัทที่ทำการหล่อพระบรมรูปทรงม้าว่า SUSSF Fres FONDEURS. PARIS

ฐานด้านขวามีอักษรฝรั่งเศสจารึกชื่อช่างปั้นและช่างหล่อไว้ว่า C.MASSON SEULP 1980 และ G.Paupg Statuare


ฐานโลหะรองรับกว้าง 3.5 เมตร ยาว 6.5 เมตร ส่วนบนของฐานประดับขอบโลหะเป็นลวดลายตราจักรกับตรีศูลแทรกลายเถาเครือแบบฝรั่ง โดยมีรูปคชสีห์และราชสีห์ประกอบทั้งสองข้าง

แท่นหินอ่อน ที่ด้านหน้ามีแผ่นโลหะจารึกอักษรไทย แสดงพระราชประวัติและพระเกียรติคุณ ลงท้ายด้วยคำถวายพระพรให้ทรงดำรงราชสมบัติอยู่ยืนนาน

Other Information

1. It is said that the "cash gift" the people contributed to the King amounted to between Bt1 - 1.2 million. Even after the deduction of the statue commission fee of roughly Bt200,000, it was still a huge amount of money at the time. Although the Crown Prince meant for it to be a gift for his father's private spending, King Chulalongkorn wanted to spend it for the sake of the people. He planned to build some public accommodations that would benefit everyone, however, the plan was not realised during his reign as the King passed away before it became a reality.
Once the Crown Prince ascended the throne as King Vajiravudh, he fulfilled his father's wish by using the money to expand a commoners' school established during the previous reign. In 1915, the school was developed into a university, given the name Chulalongkorn after King Rama V, and henceforth became the first university in Thailand.
2. The idea behind the restoration in 2012 belonged to Thawatchai Krittiyapichartkul, president of the 23 October Foundation and the producer of a documentary series "100th Anniversary of ‘Klai Baan’: Following the Footsteps of His Majesty King Chulalongkorn". Thawatchai was vexed by the fact that through the 100 years since it was built, the statue had never once been restored even where it was severely damaged by acid rain in four sections, and the bronze had turned green from sunlight, rain and air pollution.
Thawatchai said, "While following the path of King Rama V to Paris, France, we visited the foundry that built the statue and received some questions from them about its maintenance. They were surprised that no restoration had been done on the statue over the century and said that even the statue of King Loius XIV took two whole years to restore at the foundry. But King Rama V's statue could not be transported across the ocean to be restored in Paris, so we came up with the idea that we should import experts from Paris to Bangkok to work alongside our own craftsmen at the Fine Arts Department to restore the statue.
"The foundry kepy all the records of the commission, everything from documents, model photos of King Chulalongkorn from 1907, sketches, receipts, to instructions on construction techniques. These could be very useful in our restoration effort."
The restoration was a tremendous project, a national endeavour. Thawatchai consulted the Fine Arts Department before beginning the process, and had to file an official request to the National Monument Committee for approval. The Ministry of Culture was to take responsibility for the restoration by working together with other associated organisations. The 23 October Foundation was responsible for information gathering, and acted as a liaison with the Susse Fres Founeurs in France.

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