Bronze Statuette Group of Two Geometric Greek Horses
Period: Geometric Period (800-700 B.C.)
Dimensions: H: 9.9 cm, W: 9 cm
Ex-American private Collection, acquired from K. J. Hewitt in the 1960’s.
This statuette group depicts two sleek, stylized horses standing adjacent to one another. The horses are solid cast, and in parts – such as the neck and the mane – the bronze is thin enough to resemble hammering. Both horses are of similar form, with long, cylindrical bodies and rounded chests and hindquarters that taper down to unarticulated legs. The blade-like neck emerges from the shoulders in a graceful curve that holds the head high. The eyes are protruding round pegs that stand out from the surface, and the small ears point forward, which, along with its erect posture, gives the animals an air of pride and alertness.
The horse are decorated with stamped or incised decoration consisting of small concentric circles – a typical decorative motif of the Geometric period – and the hair of the mane is indicated by short, incised strokes along both sides of the neck. The piece is well-preserved, and the decorative circles retain a crispness of detail that stands out against the mottled brownish-green patina.
The horses are attached at the shoulders by three cast bronze bars that come together to form a triangular frame with a pendant loop for hanging or attachment at the apex. The loop suggests that the animals may have been part of a tripod or large bronze vessel as suspended decoration. This suggests that the piece may be from a Thessalian workshop from the second half of the 8th century B.C. All four front hooves are connected by a flat, rectangular base, and the rear hooves are similarly treated. The tails of the two horses are also attached to the rear rectangular base. They hang straight to the ground and appear braided due to the incised “V” shapes that run down their length.
The ownership of horses during the Geometric period was a sign of wealth and prestige, which made them popular as votive offerings at sanctuaries. This statuette may have been offered as just such a dedication. The concentric circles indicate the object’s northern origins, as does a similar, possibly Thessalian example, which is now in Boston. The Boston bronze also possesses the simple crossbar type base which is very rare; most horse statuettes rest on a full rectangular base to which all four legs and the tail are attached. These crossbar bases are known to occur in votives from Olympia, later spreading to Corinthian workshops.
VERMEULE C. and COMSTOCK M., Greek, Etruscan and Roman Bronzes in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 1971.
ROLLEY C., Greek Bronzes, London, 1986.
VON BOTHMER D., Glories of the Past: Ancient Art from the Shelby White and Leon Levy Collection, New York, 1990.
ZIMMERMANN J.-L., Les Chevaux de Bronze dans l’Art Géométrique Grec, Mainz, 1989.