My eyes were glued to the equestrian statue of Jung Bahadur Rana. I just couldn't take my eyes off it, both the horse and its rider were so lively. The details were so brilliant as if the rider will gallop on his horse any moment.
Seeing the degrading state of such priceless pieces of art, which are the national heritage and which represent, reflect and revive the history of the country, I decided to take an initiative for their preservation. I informed the Department of Archeology( DoA) and took the permission from Nepal Army Headquarter to work on this. Former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Pyar Jung Thapa (Retd) was always supportive to our work.
We started coating preservative coats around the statues of Jung Bahadur Rana and made beautiful garden along with plantation of Sakuras at the belt. In my efforts, few Rana family members like Prabhu Sushmer Rana, Pashupati Sumsher Rana , Prabhakar Sumsher Rana , Himalaya Sumsher Rana, Ashoke Sumsher Rana , late Amar Sumsher Rana , Victory Rana , Rani Basanta Sumsher Rana and Rajpal Singh have made contributions for renovating the statues.
I started my work making Bhadrakali Shanti Udhyan, close in the east to Bhadrakali and the triangle of Singhadurbar. The place was a slum and was often used as a protest zone at the heart of the city. We renovated coating preservatives around statue of late King Prithvi Bir Bikram Shah. Himalaya Bank Limited and SEF sponsored the work. It was one of my best projects for which I devoted my time and my colleagues from SEF assisted me.
While admiring these statues through the eyes of an admirer, I began hunting for detailed information about how these statues were casted and delivered safely to the country. I thought it must have been quite a difficult and expensive object for anyone to transport a full size equestrian statue in those days. I was even more curious to find out about the genius sculptor who casted it.
Finally I got hold of one of the triplets of the sculptor Peter Tonneli, grandson of the sculptor who casted most of these Rana statues. While corresponding with him and asking him to do a favor by sending me all the details about his grandfather's work, I got thrilled in receiving the full details about these statues along with the rare pictures of them being casted at his studio in London including a rare letter written by late Krishna Sumsher Rana, dated 5th Sep 1936, inquiring about the progress of the statues .
The name of the sculptor who casted these statue is Domenico Antonio Tonelli (1865 -1956). He was from Surrey England. He joined South Kensington National Art training school, and worked under Sir Alfred Gilbert [noted sculptor of '' Eros '' in Piccadilly Circus]. A Gold medal was awarded to Tonelli in 1886 for his renowned work.
According to information I gathered from Peter, Domenico Antonio Tonneli's Art commission in Nepal are as follows: ''The earliest reference comes from a letter from the Nepalese Legation [ Embassy ] to Tonneli dated 5th Sep 1936 where it mentions the statue of late Dev Sumsher Rana '' has reached safely '' quite a feat when you consider around 1930 when there were no airports or formed roads to deliver the statue safely through porters only .
I was thrilled seeing the picture of statue of Dev Sumsher Rana being casted at Fulthorpe studio along with Domenico Antonio Tonneli's working on it. I got more excited seeing the statue of Dev Sumsher Rana being unique and different than other statues , instead of sword in his hand a '' Roll of his reform bills " is folded in his palm. It says a lot about his broad thinking for the freedom, development and contribution for the country even then.
You can see the statue of Dev Sumsher in front of the Zoo. Next project of preservation I am going to work on is the statue of Dev. S. Rana, near where I will help make a garden, if it is not moved to another site. I am already working on it.
In his long career, Domenico Antonio Tonneli's commissioned several sculptures. They include statue of late King Prithvi Bir Bikran Shah at Bhadrakali, Juddha Sumsher Rana's statue at zoo and new road gate in 1906, Bhim Sumsher Rana's statue at Jawalakhel Zoo in 1936, Karna Kumari [ sitting ] mother of Dev and Chandra at Zoo, 1934, Statue of Rani of Chandra Sumsher Rana at zoo 1909, Equestrian statues North side of Sahid Gate and statue of Ranodip Singh, statue of Chandra Sumsher Rana, bronze bust of one too.
With great excitement and a keen interest, and with my own personal resources and funds I collected, all this information about these existing statues of various rulers which are part of our history and heritage, I made a complete booklet compiling all the pictures and letters I received from Peter Tonneli.
I also organized an inauguration program where representatives from the Department of Archeology and the chief guest, Chairman of Rajparishad late Parshu Narayan Chaudhari, was present. I had handed over 50 copies of the booklet to representatives of DoA for their records. He had thanked me saying it would be a great asset for DoA regarding the details of the existing statues of which they were not aware of before. I am eager to preserve these valuable pieces as a heritage of the country.