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Work Horseman

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

"Ecuyer"

© 1993 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

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

Author(s):
Marie-Bénédicte Astier

This male figurine once adorned the handle of a studded tripod cauldron - an offering made all the more prestigious by the scarcity of bronze in the Geometric period. The figure - that of a horseman or a warrior - was probably accompanied by a small horse, and he would once have held a weapon and his horse's reins in his hands. The same aesthetic spirit that created the stylized body and the absence of volume also guided the decoration of vases in the latter half of the 8th century BC.

Decoration of a studded tripod cauldron handle

In the 8th century BC - the Geometric period - studded bronze tripod cauldrons constituted prestigious offerings. Aristocrats offered them to the gods in the great sanctuaries at Olympia, Delphi or the Acropolis at Athens. In the beginning, they were used as cooking utensils. Very quickly, however, these votive cauldrons (made particularly precious by the scarcity of bronze) lost their everyday aspect. They grew taller and their decoration became more abundant, enriched with stamped and engraved lines and geometric patterns. Beginning in the mid-8th century, the handles were decorated with small animal and human figures (horsemen, warriors, and horses, signs of the dedicants' social rank). These statuettes were cast separately and then riveted on. This male figure, which was found at Olympia, was part of the decoration of one of these cauldrons. The presence of a small plate on its base containing rivets indicates that the figure was attached to the top of the cauldron's circular handle. It would probably have been accompanied by a small horse.

An echo of Geometric period ceramics

A warrior or a simple horseman? This figure once held attributes - today lost - that identified him: the reins of a horse in his left hand and a weapon, probably a lance, brandished in his right. The stylized body and the lack of volume make this statuette a three-dimensional echo of the black silhouettes found on vases from the same period. The figure is treated in a highly schematized fashion. The torso is reduced to a triangle, forming a cross where the openings for the neck, arms, and waist are interchangeable; the arms are spindly and lacking in substance. The legs are thicker, but they are very elongated and display the same tubular aspect as the arms. As on its ceramic counterparts, a raised area and two hollows, which represent the nose and ears, enliven the face with its pointed chin.

A Corinthian production

This bronze figurine was created around 740 BC, using the solid-cast lost-wax method. It has been attributed to a workshop in Corinth, one of the cities (along with Argos, Sparta, and Athens) where bronze figures were created in abundance and widely distributed during the 8th century BC. Its slim silhouette and diamond-shaped head are comparable in style to several Corinthian statuettes used as offerings that were discovered in the temples at Delphi and Olympia.

Bibliography

Rolley Cl., Les Statuettes de bronze, FD V, 1969, pp. 25-26, fig. 8-10.
Schweitzer B., Die Geometrische Kunst griechenlands, 1969, pp. 135-139, pp. 150-151, planches 127, 172.

Technical description

  • "Ecuyer"

    Vers 740 avant J.-C.

    Provenance : Olympie

    Style corinthien

  • Bronze

    H. : 15,80 cm.

  • Acquisition 1884 , 1884

    Br 82

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Bronzes room
    Room 663
    Vitrine M1 : Grèce, époque géométrique (IXe - VIIIe siècles avant J.-C.)

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