George Blackall Simonds, son of a wealthy brewer, grew up with enough money and leisure to train as a sculptor in Dresden, Brussels, and Rome. His roaring lion serves as a memorial to men from Berkshire who died in the Afghan War of 1880. He immortalized Queen Victoria, looking very grim about her Golden Jubilee in 1887. And then, in 1901 he returned to the family brewery and ran it for almost 3 decades.
Simonds loved falconry so much that he held a falcon for his portrait as chairman of the brewery. Long before that, as a young man in Italy, he had sculpted this figure. The falcon is about to fly off, but the falconer still holds the jesses tightly in one hand, the hood in the other. For centuries, falconry was a pastime open only to noblemen, which explains why our young man wears aristocratic garments 400 years out of date.
Now we’ve dispensed with the beer part. The cologne wafted in from wealthy New Yorker George Kemp. The most popular product Kemp’s company sold was Florida Water, formulated in 1808 and still available today. It was advertised as toilette water, aftershave, and relief for insect bites and frayed nerves. It even promised to make you look younger! Hence the name “Florida Water” - Florida is where Ponce de Leon went to seek the Fountain of Youth.
Kemp saw the Falconer in Italy, and loved it so much that he offered a copy to the Board of Commissioners of Central Park. The work was set in place in 1875, high on a rock overlooking the Lake. The New York Times complained that it “should most certainly have been placed at least 15 feet lower than it is.” But the Times also commended the Falconer as “one of the few really artistic statues that have been placed in Central Park.”