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Head of a Horse
Greek Sculptor from Attica
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Greek Sculptor from Attica

600, 500

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Head of a Horse

Ca. 515 a.C.. Marble. Room 072

The original context for this partially conserved life-size sculpture of a horse’s head is now unknown. Only a few clues remain to clarify it. García y Bellido determined that it was from late archaic times as its style closely resembles the horses on the Acropolis in Athens. While the neck appears wide and robust in profile, with a bulging jaw and muscles artistically emphasized and a slight narrowing towards the ears; it is surprisingly slender when seen from the front. The head is gently turned to the left. While this work clearly reflects the style of Attican sculpture, it could also be from another region -the isles of Paros and Thassos, for example, where equine sculptures have also been discovered. The previously mentioned sculptures of horses at the Acropolis are votive statues about 1.10 meters high, which wealthy Greek noblemen dedicated to that city’s goddess, Athena. The present horse, however, must have been nearly twice as tall, measuring some 2.20 meters. There are other equine sculptures of the same size from the late archaic period, and the Acropolis itself had three with similar dimensions: an equestrian statue and two other horses that were probably part of a larger set, as their slightly arched bodies and gently turned heads were symmetrically matched. The last two were part of a two-horse, or possibly a four-horse chariot, but they probably did not belong to a free-standing ex-voto. Both horses lack hindquarters and are supported from below by a horizontal marble frame at the back, indicating that they may have been installed frontally as part of a mural decoration. This may have been similar to the metope at Temple C in Selinunte. There were other horses of the same size, though not the same style, at the Delphic temple of the Alcmaeonids, from the 6th century, B.C.E.. These, too, were located on the temple’s eastern pediment. The Museo del Prado’s horse shows marks from a similar use. The gently arched horizontal groove on the left side of the neck could have been made by metal reins, now lost. These would have been at that height on the horse’s neck, as can be seen in the depictions of horses from the Treasure of Sifnos in Delphos. Similarly, the groove-shaped orifice under the neck could have resulted from the horse’s attachment to another at its side. The orifice over the horse’s mane may originally have held a metal spike (meniskos, in Greek) to keep birds away. These marks are also important proof of the piece’s authenticity, which has been questioned, at least verbally, on some occasions (Text from Schröder, S. F.: Catálogo de la escultura clásica, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2004, pp. 8-11).

Technical data

Inventory number
Greek Sculptor from Attica
Head of a Horse
Ca. 515 a.C.
Height: 109 cm; Base/bottom: 60 cm; Weight: 281 Kg; Weight of the support: 915 Kg
Bequest of Marius de Zayas, 1944

Bibliography +

Garcia y Bellido, Antonio, La escultura clásica del ''Legado Zayas'', en el Museo del Prado, Archivo Español de Arqueología, 25, 1952, pp. 87-102.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de la escultura, Madrid, 1957, pp. nº438-E.

Blanco, Antonio; Lorente, Manuel, Catálogo de la escultura. Museo del Prado, Patronato Nacional de Museos, Madrid, 1981, pp. nº438.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Escultura clásica: guía, Fundación Marcelino Botín; Museo del Prado, Santander, 1999, pp. 50.

Schröder, Stephan F., Catálogo de la escultura clásica: Museo del Prado, II, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2004, pp. 8-11.

Schröder, Stephan F., Marius de Zayas, el donante reencontrado, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXII, 2004, pp. 81 / lám. 1.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Enciclopedia del Museo del Prado, II, T.F. Editores: Fundación Amigos, Madrid, 2006, pp. 584.

Museo Nacional del Prado, La Guía del Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2008, pp. 442.

Museo Nacional del Prado, El Museo del Prado: la colección de escultura, artes decorativas y dibujos, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2009.

Location +

Room 072 (On Display)

Update date: 09-11-2021 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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