One photo a day until I meet Jonathan Harris

7th May

Le Combat du Centaure by Gustave Crauck (1827 - 1905)

Passing through the courtyard of the town hall on other business, I almost didn't take a photo. It was just another sculpture and believe me, in this town there are thousands them. I guess I was just curious about the girl, and wondered which one - the horse-man or the strangler - ended up taking her home.

My search for an answer turned up much more story than I bargained for.

I imagine carving something similar out of rock is not the easiest thing to do, but I was shocked to first discover that it actually took the Gustave 30 years to get the job done right. It was then amusing to hear the story behind the figure of the strangler: a real-life Prussian strongman called Eugen Sandow.

But what about the girl?

Well, apparently her name is Hippodamia. She comes from the Greek Mythology which from what I gather is an incredibly complex and detailed set of stories involving all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures and events. Think the entire oeuvre of Days of our Lives but with horse-men and demi-gods thrown in.

The trouble depicted in the sculpture takes place at Hippodamia's wedding bash. The horse-men had all been invited to the party, but they weren't used to drinking wine. After one glass too many, Eurytion (the horse-man in the scultpture) jumped up and grabbed Hippodamia in an attempt to beat Pirithous (Hippodamia's lucky man) to the bedroom. Before things got too out of hand, Pirithous' best-mate and prize-fighter Theseus (a.k.a. the strangler) stepped in and put a stop to the commotion. After cutting off his nose and ears for good measure, they sent Eurytion trotting home to sleep it all off.

So neither guy in the sculpture ended up getting the girl. Their wedding photos might have been ruined, but Hippodamia and Pirithous obviously got over it as they went on to have a star of a child whom they named Polypoites.

After snapping the photo of this statue I continued about my business on an otherwise typical grey and slightly cold day in Paris. Before I got home, I probably passed by at least 20 other similar sculptures. It was great to learn that Hippodamia's story ended well, but it makes shiver slightly to think that every other statue in this town might have a similarly incredible tale to tell.