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Ages and works of art

The past of the Zoo is embodied not only in the buildings erected during the different eras, but also in the form of the works of art created in them. Since, besides animals, plants and various buildings, there are many works of art in the garden as well, making the overall picture complete.

Actually the buildings themselves are adorned with quite a lot of decorative sculptures, too. Just think of the stone elephant, polar bear and mandrill figures of the main entrance, or the eosin-glazed Zsolnay ceramic figures of the Elephant House. What is more, one could hardly imagine how many noteworthy decorative sculptures there are in the Zoo; not only on the animal houses over a hundred years old, but also on the János Xantus House (formerly Bird Wintering House) built in the socialist realist style in 1954. In addition to the building sculptures, the mosaics deserve our praise as well, most of which were made in the workshop of Miksa Róth, the imperial glass and mosaic maker. An extremely elaborate and fine mosaic adorns the Main Gate, and interesting mosaic decorations are installed in the Aquarium’s viewing room as well. The fence surrounding the Zoo, especially its segment built in 1912 between Dózsa György út and the Circus, deserves to be called a true work of art. The fence base is gravel-surfaced reinforced concrete, while there is a wrought iron grille in the column spans above the base. The latter were supplied by Farkas and Partner Iron Structural Manufacturing Works. On the wrought iron grille elements are animal figures, such as deer, lion and polar bear with cubs. There are also fine line-drawings of birds on metal plates riveted onto the fence.

Sculptures represent the largest number of freestanding works of art in the Zoo. Out of these, the two cast-iron dragons are the most aged, being older than the Zoo itself. These were cast in 1856 and originally guarded the gate of the loading yard of the First Danube Steamboat Shipping Company, located next to the Chain Bridge. Originally there were three dragons, which were later relocated from their original site due to the reconstruction of the wharf. One of the dragons was then erected in front of the Kiscelli Museum, and is still standing there. The other two were first moved to the corner of the City Park, then to the Amusement Park, and finally to the Zoo in 2010 (before the Amusement park was closed). The dragons are currently standing along the walkway leading up to the entrance to the Magic Mountain, though in 2016 they were temporarily moved to the main entrance of the garden, during the Night of the Dragons show, subtitled China Light in the Zoo.

Although these two dragon sculptures are very old, they were moved into the Zoo only recently. Hence, out of the free-standing sculptures in the garden, the piece titled ‘Vengeance’ by István Tóth is probably the oldest. The full body sculpture depicting Cro-Magnon man was probably made in 1899 and then, after WWII, was moved to the Zoo in the early 1950s. For a long time it was standing next to the little pond of the park located in front of the entrance to the Palm House. Later, it was placed to the side of the Great Rock, then to the Little Rock, and eventually next to the Lemur House, where it currently stands.

The statuette titled ‘Dancing Snakes’, the creation of a similarly renowned sculptor, Barna Búza, was unveiled in 1986. Originally it stood at the foot of the hill of the Rock Garden; currently it is installed in front of the Venomous Creatures House.

The bronze statuettes by Kata Székely are unique among the sculptures. The first sculpture by the young talent, then an arts college student, was inaugurated in 2005. The statuette titled ‘Lulu’, depicting our female rhino, was followed by more than a dozen other works of art in the forthcoming years. Most of these depicted some animals (ring-tailed lemur, hippo, polar bear, sea-lion, tapir, penguin, snowy owl, cormorant, pelican, etc.), and also miniature sculptures of the Great Rock and the neighbouring buildings. Kata Székely’s sculptures are special because, in addition to having great artistic and aesthetic value, they also help the visually impaired to get to know the world around them. Partly, the purpose of these statuettes is to allow the blind and visually impaired to feel the shape of these animals through tactile experience. The Braille writings placed next to the statuettes also help the visually impaired to obtain more information.

The different wooden sculptures placed all around the area of the Zoo deserve special attention, as well. For the most part, these are faithful copies of the ‘pagan idol statues’ erected in 1912 but then destroyed during the war, while the rest were made, almost exclusively, by Béla Mónus over the last two decades. The latest of these works is a koala sculpture made in 2015, but one can also find a wooden lion, gorilla, a hugely magnified caterpillar and a tarantula, all sculpted by this great artist who, in a rather humble manner, calls himself a ‘sculpting man’.

The kinetic bird sculpture by. István Harasztÿ, also known under the artist name of ‘Édeske,’ is a really unique work, standing next to the entrance to the giant otters.

Some of the works of art displayed signify the relationship of our institution with faraway places. The work of Anita Elek titled ‘The pair of birds of freedom’ is a nice example of that. The sculpture has an interesting story, starting back in 2003. It was this year when the Hungarian-Madagascan Friendship Society erected the sculpture symbolising the bird of freedom next to the Madagascan village of Maroensetra, commemorating the great traveller, scientist, soldier and philanthropist Móric Benyovszky, who represents an important link between the Hungarian and Malagasy peoples. In 2010 we erected the pair, a duplicate copy of this sculpture, next to the Madagascar House in our Zoo. The work was inaugurated by Randrianasolo Lalarison Richard, Honorary Consul of Madagascar and György G. Németh, President of the Hungarian-Madagascan Friendship Society.

The pillar of Ashoka erected in front of the India House in 2012 has a similar story. The duplicate copy of the capital of the pillar of Ashoka from Sarnath is placed on top of the pillar and also an otter sculpture, donated to the Zoo by the South Korean city of Daejeon in 2016.

And the list of works of art must by all means include the drinking fountains found at several points of the Zoo, as well. Such as the dodo fountain made by Nánda Stössel, or the turtle fountain made by Levente Thúry. The list of the different works of art found in the garden is quite long; actually there are more than a hundred of these works.

Some of the works of art displayed signify the relationship of our institution with faraway places. The work of Anita Elek titled ‘The pair of the bird of freedom’ is a nice example to that. The sculpture has an interesting story, starting back in 2003. It was this year when the Hungarian-Madagascan Friendship Society erected the sculpture symbolising the bird of freedom next to the Madagascan village of Maroensetra, commemorating the great traveller, scientist, soldier and philanthropist Móric Benyovszky, who represents an important link between the Hungarian and Malagasy peoples. In 2010 we erected the pair, a duplicate copy of this sculpture, next to the Madagascar House of our Zoo. The work was inaugurated by Randrianasolo Lalarison Richard, Honorary Consul of Madagascar and György G. Németh, President of the Hungarian-Madagascan Friendship Society.

The pillar of Ashoka erected in front of the India House in 2012 has a similar story. The duplicate copy of the capital of the pillar of Ashoka from Sarnath is placed on top of the pillar and also an otter sculpture donated to the Zoo by the South Korean city of Daejeon in 2016.

And the list of works of art must by all means include the drinking fountains found at several points of the Zoo as well. For example, the dodo fountain made by Nánda Stössel and the turtle fountain made by Levente Thúry. The list of the different works of art found in the garden is quite long, in fact there are more than a hundred of them.