Originally commissioned by Wilhelm II (1859–1941), the last emperor of Prussia, these were some of the 96 statues and busts that lined Berlin's Siegesallee, the Victory Avenue that was also Wilhelm-commissioned.
The collection depicted members of the Prussian royalty dating back to 1157, each accompanied by busts of two advisors or close associates.
Widely criticised as excessive and vulgar, the boulevard quickly gained monikers as Puppenallee (Puppet Boulevard).
It also typified what came to be known as 'Wilhelminism', imagery propagated by, though by no means limited to, Wilhelm's ostentatiousness, swollen self-importance and imperialist ambitions.
When the Nazis came into power, the Siegesallee statues were moved to a minor avenue to give way to the North-South Axis that would anchor Hitler's new capital, Welthauptstadt Germania.
WWII saw many statues damaged. Because of their imperialist symbolism, they were nearly destroyed by the Allies but for a curator. He made sure the 28 statues and 50 busts were out of sight by burying them.
In 1979, they were unearthed. Some found homes but most were temporarily exhibited until 2009, when they were moved to the Zitadelle to be restored and eventually housed.
Un-elevated, less than whole and anonymous, the statues appeared stripped of grandiose pretensions. Instead, I saw the humans behind the marble, now long dead. And the whole became a striking comment on mortality.