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Lion of Lucerne Plaque - Item #692

$ 95.00



8.25 Inches High x 10.75 Inches Wide x 1 Inches Deep

A former Swiss Guardsman, Karl Pfyffer von Altishofen, convinced Danish artist Bertel Thorvaldsen in 1818 to create a model for the controversial monument he desired to commission. The monument would memorialize the men of the Swiss Guard regiment who died protecting the French king Louis XVI’s palace known as the Tuileries during the French Revolution. Between then and the time of the commission, Switzerland had become independent of France. Creating a monument that was going to appear loyalist would be contentious, and so it was. From the monument’s conception through its dedication, it was both praised and criticized. Over the years, however, Switzerland has come to claim the monument as its own, as a monument to the Swiss people.

Thorvaldsen created drawings and two maquettes based on Pfyffer von Altishofen’s idea of a lion. Although the patron wanted a dead lion surrounded by weapons and shields, Thorvaldsen countered with a living lion, which would be visually more interesting. Instead, the men settled on a lion that was dying. Pfyffer von Altishofen had previously decided that the sculpture would be carved into a wall of a former sandstone quarry that he owned, a site that is now a part of the Glacier Garden in Lucerne, Switzerland. Referencing Thorvaldsen’s models, Swiss sculptor Pankraz Eggenschwyler began carving the monumental sculpture in August of 1819. Most of the work, however, was completed by German sculptor Lucas Ahorn who replaced Eggenschwyler and finished the carving in August of 1821. It was dedicated on August 10th of that year.

Inscribed in this plaque is some of the text accompanying the original artwork in Lucerne. Above the lion it reads “HELVETIORUM FIDEI AC VIRTUTI” and below reads “DIE X AUGUSTI II ET III SEPTEMBRIS MDCCXCII.” The work is also known as the Dying LionLion Monument, or Swiss Lion. 


Artist: Bertel Thorvaldsen

Museum: Glacier Garden, Lucerne, Switzerland

Time Period: Neoclassical, 1821



"Explore the Collections" feature. Thorvaldsens Museum. Inventory number A119.

Kofoed, Kira. "Dying Lion (The Lucerne Lion)." The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives, translated by David Possen, 2013,

"Lion monument." Gletschergarten Luzern