Bronze statuette of a horse

Late Hellenistic
late 2nd–1st century B.C.
Bronze; direct lost-wax casting
H. 15 13/16 in. (40.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1923
Accession Number:
  • Description

    When this bronze horse was first acquired in 1923, its austere majesty led to its identification as an Early Classical masterpiece of the fifth century B.C. It was long heralded as artistically the most important single object in the Museum's Classical collection. In the late 1960s, its authenticity was questioned on technical grounds, causing an international uproar and intense scholarly debate. After extensive scientific analysis, including thermoluminescence dating of its clay core, its authenticity was vindicated. However, reconsideration of its stylistic features in light of our current knowledge of the reuse of earlier styles in Hellenistic art has led to a more probable dating in the Late Hellenistic period.

    In the Classical period, such large statuettes were primarily religious in nature. Bronze horse or horse-and-rider statuettes were typically placed on the tops of columns set up at sanctuaries by the animal's owner in commemoration of one or more victories in the horse races held at the Panhellenic sanctuaries of Olympia, Delphi, Isthmia, and Nemea. This practice continued in Hellenistic times, when other uses were also possible for such a sculpture of a horse. For example, it could have decorated a private home. It could also have been made for the Roman art market, for which many Greek artists were producing works in the Classical style in the first century B.C.

  • Provenance

    Said to come from the sea near Mahdia (I cavalli di San Marco 1981, p. 221, no. 95).

  • References

    McClees, Helen. 1924. The Daily Life of the Greeks and Romans: As Illustrated in the Classical Collections. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 110.

    Richter, Gisela M. A. 1927. Handbook of the Classical Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 132-35, figs. 89-91.

    The Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1929. "Sculpture." The Encycloapedia Britannica, : p. 146, n 4, pl. 1.

    Richter, Gisela M. A. 1930. Handbook of the Classical Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 132-35, figs. 89-91.

    Blümel, Carl. 1936. Sport der Hellenen: Ausstellung griechischer Bildwerke. Berlin: Verlag für Kunstwissenschaft, no. 46 .

    Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Albright Art Gallery. 1937. Master Bronzes, Selected from Museums and Collections in America. Buffalo: Burrow, no. 81 .

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1939. Guide to the Collections: Ancient and Oriental Art--Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greek and Roman Far Eastern, Near Eastern Oriental Armor, Vol. 1, World's Fair Edition. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    Lippold, Georg. 1950. "Die griechische Plastik." Handbuch der Archäologie, Vol. 3, Walter G.A. Otto and Reinhard Herbig, eds. Munich: Beck, p. 135, n 4.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1950. Small Sculptures in Bronze: A Picture Book. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 18.

    Richter, Gisela M. A. 1950. The Sculpture and Sculptors of the Greeks, 3rd edn. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 111, 206, 461, figs. 349-50.

    Richter, Gisela M. A. 1953. Handbook of the Greek Collection. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, pp. 65, 206, pl. 46.

    Poulsen, Vagn. 1962. Griechische Bildwerke. Königstein im Taunus: Karl Robert Langewiesche Nachfolger, p. 39.

    Robertson, Martin and Cambridge University Press. 1975. A History of Greek Art, Vols. 1 and 2. Cambridge, England, p. 190.

    Kunisch, Norbert. 1976. "Antikenfalschungen." Fälschung und Forschung: Ausstellung Museum Folkwang Essen, Oktober 1976-Januar 1977, Heinz Althöfer, ed. Essen: Museum Folkwang, no. 1, p. 35 .

    von Bothmer, Dietrich. 1978. Antichnoe iskusstvo iz muzeia Metropoliten, Soedinennye Shtaty Ameriki: Katalog vystavki. Moscow: Sovetskii Khudozhnik, no. 92.

    von Bothmer, Dietrich and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1980. Notable Acquisitions 1979-1980. New York, no. 92 .

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1980. The Horses of San Marco: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, February 1-June 1, 1980, New York. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 24, p. 5.

    Picón, Carlos A. 1992. "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1991-1992." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 50(2): no. 250, p. 214.

    Hemingway, Seán A. 2006. "Horse and Man in Greek Art." Sculpture Review, 55: no. 2, p. 10.

    Picón, Carlos A. 2007. Art of the Classical World in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Greece, Cyprus, Etruria, Rome New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 250, pp. 214-15, 453.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History