Rheinhold's Monkey Bronze (Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society; Aberdeen, Scotland, UK)

Source: R.P. Cumming, "Art Treasures and Furnishings in the Society's Hall." In G. P. Milne (ed.), Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society. A Bicentennial History 1789-1989. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1989: 94-150. Thanks to Dr. Jochen Richter, Berlin, for pointing out this source.



Statuette of Rheinhold's monkey bequeathed to the Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society by Dr. David Rorie in 1946 (p. 141).


Rheinhold's ape statuette in Aberdeen

Photo credit: Steven Hay (Senior Medical Photographer), University of Aberdeen1



Cummings article includes the following description of Rheinhold's statuette by Dr. G. P. Milne:


"One of the interesting objets d'art in the possession of the Society is a bronze statuette on a Darwinian theme. It was presented to the Society by the Poet Laureate of the Society, Dr. David Rorie, who expressed the wish that it would stand as an ornament on the Council table. It is of an ape sitting on a pile of books pensively contemplating a human skull which is held in the animal's right hand. Its left hand is holding its jaw; its right foot holds a pair of dividers and its left foot clasps its right leg. One of the pile of books is lettered 'Darwin' on its spine and another is open and bears an inscription 'Eritis sicut deus' taken from the book of Genesis.

The statuette is the work of the German sculptor, Hugo Wolfgang Rheinhold (1853-1900), who was born in Obernlahnstein [sic] and was a pupil of the sculptors Kruse and Herter, in addition to studying at the Academy of Berlin. As part of his education he spent some time in Italy. There is a marble by him in the Berlin museum entitled 'On the Road' and also one of his bronzes can be seen in Hamburg-'Dynamite in the Service of Humanity'. He does not appear to have been a prolific artist. The Society's statuette dates from 1892 and according to Mr. Rishworth of the Royal College of Surgeons of London, eight casts were made from the mould. Mr. Rishworth presented one of these to the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1978 and part of this description of the bronze statuette is taken from an account published in the 'College News' of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Of these eight casts the whereabouts of five of them are known. Apart from the one in the College of Surgeons two are in private hands, one is in the Department of Zoology in Edinburgh University, one stands prominently on Lenin's desk in the Kremlin and we in the Medico-Chirurgical Society posses the other one.

I made enquiries as to the history surrounding the purchase of the statuette presented to us by Dr. Rorie. He was in Berlin in 1913 accompanied by the late Col. Nicol Smith, who had a jeweller's shop in Aberdeen. Col. Nicol Smith bought one of the two statuettes which were then for sale and Dr. David Rorie purchased the other one and in due course presented it to the Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society. Of the two already noted to be in private hands, one is known to be that which belonged to Col. Nicol Smith and was sold to a private buyer in Aberdeen at the sale of house contents which followed upon the death of Col. Nicol Smith.

I am grateful to the Curator of Portraits and Works of Art of the Royal College of Surgeons for the artistic description of the statuette and for details of the provenance of some of the other statuettes." (Milne, quoted in in Cumming, p. 142)

Dr. Milne's source is incorrect in two respects: (1) Rheinhold's monkey was one of many "Ladenbronzen" (store-sold bronzes) cast by Gladenbeck in unlimited quantities. While many of the statuettes may not have survived two world wars, there are certainly more than just eight of them still in existence, as the gradually growing number of entries in Table 1 and Table 2 confirms. (2) Rheinhold's sculpture 'Dynamite in the Service of Humanity' was relocated from its original place of display in Hamburg (Nobel-Hof, Zippelhaus 5) to the Krümmel plant of the Dynamit-Nobel AG in Geesthacht, from where it disappeared in 1943.


A recent book published by the Medico-Chirurgical Society of Aberdeen describes its Rheinhold's monkey statuette as "one of the most interesting articles" in its collection. Unfortunately, the authors repeat, uncritically (without acknowledging evidence to the contrary and without citing their source), the misconception that only "eight statuettes were cast from the [original; A.Sch.] mold." (A. Adam and J.D. Hutchison, The Heritage of the Med-Chi. Aberdeen: The Medico-Chirurgical Society of Aberdeen, 2007: 100-101.2)







1My thanks to Julian Derry for providing me with this picture.

2My thanks to Julian Derry for drawing my attention to this book.


Back to the Rheinhold's Philosophizing Monkey Homepage


Axel Schmetzke, Ph.D.



University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

900 Reserve

Stevens Point, WI 54481