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Work Winged Horse

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)

Winged horse: utensil decoration

© 2000 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)

Author(s):
Marie-Bénédicte Astier

This small winged horse from the oracle to Zeus at Dodona in Epirus bears witness to the Corinthian influence on the production of the workshops of northwestern Greece in the mid-sixth century BC. The subject was almost certainly associated with a symmetrically reversed matching piece, also found at Dodona and now in the national Museum, Athens. Both would have adorned the same utensil, the shape of which remains a mystery.

Discovered in the temple to Zeus in Dodona

This small bronze horse was found during excavations of the oracle to Zeus at Dodona, Epirus (in northwestern Greece). Purchased from the collector S. Lévy in 1890, it entered the Louvre's collections the following year. The animal, spreading its long wings, probably represents Pegasus, the mythical horse that sprang from the blood of Medusa and was made into a constellation by Zeus, father of the Olympian gods.

Decoration of a votive or cult utensil

Another bronze horse, also found in the Dodona sanctuary and now in the National Museum, Athens, appears to mirror the Louvre statuette. Together they probably formed a symmetrically reversed matching pair and were used to decorate the same utensil. Each was attached to its support by two small plates located under the hooves and secured by rivets. The shape of the utensil and its function remain a mystery. The horses probably served as the handles of a votive vase or other cult object dedicated to Zeus, as suggested by a number of other similar animal statuettes, many of them discovered at Dodona.

The influence of the Corinthian style

The Louvre horse was made in the Archaic period, between 550 and 525 BC, possibly in a workshop in Ambracia. It illustrates the influence of Corinthian craftsmen on the production of the workshops of northwestern Greece. The treatment of the mane, hatched with crosswise incisions, the slightly heavy limbs, and the short muzzle and undefined nostrils are reminiscent of the small horses made in Corinth and in a large part of the Peloponnese. The influence of Corinthian art was widespread in Epirus at this time owing to the presence near by of a Corinthian colony, the island of Corfu (the ancient Corcyra). Local craftsmen thus adopted the style of the mother city, drawing inspiration from the decorative repertoire of Corinthian work.

Bibliography

Walter-Karydi (E.), "Bronzen aus Dodona - Eine Epirotische Erzbildnerschule", Jahrbuch der Berliner Museum, 1981, pp. 20, 27.
Rodenwaldt (G.), Die Bildwerke des Artemistemples von Korkyra, Berlin, 1939, pp. 53-5.


Technical description

  • Winged horse: utensil decoration

    Third quarter of 4th century BC

    Provenance: Dodona (Epirus)

    Workshop of north-western Greece (Ambracia?)

  • Bronze

    H. 13.2 cm; L. 13.3 cm

  • Acquired in 1890

    Br 149

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Bronzes room
    Room 32, temporarily closed to the public, works n
    Display case C1: Archaic Greece (6th century BC)

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