Achilles Bentos and King Albert I
On February 17, 1934, Belgian King Albert I died in Marche-les-Dames in a mountaineering accident. Very quickly, the merchants of Ghent launched a subscription for the erection of a statue in his honour. After much discussion and tribulations, it was decided to launch an art competition, reserved for artists from Ghent and East Flanders, for a monumental statue in honour of the King Knight. The details of this story have been kept in the journal Gazette van Gent and detailed in a study by E. De Keukeleire in the Gentsche Tydinghen.
It was finally decided to place the monument in South Park, and the competition did not place any direct restrictions on the theme, material, or size of the monument. The competition officially started on June 20, 1934.
Some 25 artists made at least one proposal to the Committee. Among them were well-known artists such as Jan Anteunis, Jozef Cantré, Olivier Piette, Léon Sarteel, or Jules Van den Hende. And of course, Domien Ingels, who finally won the competition.
The projects are presented in the premises of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent and will be judged by a committee including a.o. Henri Van de Velde (the architect of the tower of the university library), the architect Victor Horta, the artists Jules de Bruycker and Valerius De Saedeleer, the sculptor from Mechelen (Malines) Ernest Wynants, and some civil and military authorities.
Many of the projects are classical: King Albert is depicted on horseback, waving to the crowd. Not very original, if I may. Equestrian statues of King Albert I can be found in Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges, Liège, Namur, but also in Paris, and ... also one in Ghent.
Some projects are more interesting and original, such as the one proposed by Achilles Bentos.
A studio photo in our collection pictures on the background a model of a monument to Albert I, where we can see (not very detailed, it must be said) a statue of King Albert I in military uniform, his right hand on his heart and his left arm raised, taking the oath. Newspapers have recognized the originality of the concept since in the article by E. De Keukeleiere, there is a passage from the Ghent Gazette saying:
"A naive but moving design depicts the king standing with his hand over his heart and taking an oath."
So this citation concerns indeed the project of Achilles Bentos. It is a pity that it was not recognised and awarded by the jury. Now it is the large (and beautiful, it must be agreed) equestrian statue of Domien Ingels that decorates the South Park.
E; De Keukeleire, 2005. Voor u Verzameld. Uit 31 600 Edities van de "Gazette van Gent". Het Monument Aan Koning Albert I'. Gentsche Tydinghen 4: 225-241
Translated with the help of DeepL