The matching pair of bronze statues, each of a son transfixed in the act of hurling a blade toward the neck of his father, disappeared sometime during the French Revolution.
They had adorned opposite sides of a bridge in Ghent, a bridge that no longer exists, but must have once since it left so many names behind. We know Albrecht Dürer walked upon it, in early April 1521. It was a place of execution then, a place where some lives remained forever halted in midstream, but if Dürer reflected on this all too human coincidence between the natural and metaphysical worlds, he left no trace of it; in his diary, he simply notes having seen the twin patricides in passing.
There are two stories about the events commemorated by these absent statues. In both, a father and son are condemned to die, though we know nothing of their crime; in both, the king decides that one may be absolved, if only he agrees to serve as executioner of the other.
In one version, the father immediately rejects this diabolical bargain, which the son then quickly accepts. As the son heaves the axe toward his father’s neck, the blade turns suddenly upon his own, killing him outright.
In the other, the father demands to be sacrificed so that his son might live, but as the son swings the axe to perform the horrible deed, the blade breaks in two. After this miraculous event, both are pardoned.
The king’s motivations remain unknown.