Restored Horse Tamer statue unveiled at Roslyn park
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A once-headless horseman has returned to his former glory.
The towering statue of a man taming a rearing horse, carved 93 years ago to grace Gold Coast financier Clarence Mackay's famed Harbor Hill estate, has been restored and relocated to Gerry Park in Roslyn.
Dozens of people cheered Saturday afternoon as a large tarp was removed, revealing the white marble statue.
Three years ago, when the statue was donated to the Town of North Hempstead, it was crumbling from decades of neglect and exposure to the elements. The horseman's head and other pieces were missing.
"I was informed it was my duty to save this horse, which now was especially vulnerable in light of changes in ownership," recalled Frank Hill Perrell, executive director of the Roslyn Landmark Society, the group in charge of the $100,000 restoration project.
According to Perrell, Mackay modeled his two Horse Tamer statues -- the other was relocated to Roslyn High School -- after the 18th century Marly Horses commissioned by King Louis XV. Mackay had seen them on display at the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
"He knew these would be an ideal element to adorn the formal gardens of his house," Perrell said.
After the Mackay mansion and its sprawling estate were redeveloped in the 1950s, the statue stayed in its original spot, eventually becoming part of the backyard of Bruce and Melissa Shulman, who donated it.
Moving and restoring the 10,000-pound art work was a "herculean task," but worth it considering the statue's significance, Perrell said.
"The theme of the Horse Tamer means barbarism being submitted to civilization," he said. "The tamer represents the higher impulses; the horse the lower impulses."
Michael Mackay, great-grandson of Clarence Mackay, attended Saturday's unveiling. He said it's a miracle the statue survived.
"Even the wealthiest connoisseurs often miss the darker illusion in art, the illusion of permanence -- that just because something is carved in stone or painted on canvas it will last forever," Mackay said.
Gesturing to the people who oversaw the restoration, he added: "A handful of people know better."