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Statuette of a Horse in Geometric Style

Statuette of a Horse in Geometric Style - Altes Museum

Statuette of a Horse in Geometric Style

This Statuette of a Horse in Geometric Style is a cast bronze stallion on a pierced base which comes from the Peloponnese, Greece, most probably from the Zeus Sanctuary in Olympia. Horse figures are among the most common dedications of geometric time. This stallion is one of the largest surviving examples of its type and probably created as a votive offering.

At Olympia, many small figurines, mostly of animals, were thrown onto the massive pile of ashes from the animal sacrifices at the altar at the Temple of Zeus. Much of our knowledge of ancient Greek art in base metal comes from these and other excavated deposits of offerings. Arms and armor, especially helmets, were also given after a victory.

The Treasuries at Olympia were built by the Greek city-states to hold their votive offerings in money and precious metal. These sites contained large quantities of votive sculptures, intended to glorify each city, as well as to give thanks to the gods. Votive offerings were also used as atonement for sins committed against a god or goddess.

The horse played an integral role in ancient Greek culture. In myths, legends, warfare, sport, and transportation, the horse has been honored by Ancient Greeks in many of their arts. Horses were among the earliest subjects depicted by Greek artists and remained the most commonly depicted animal. Artists celebrated horses as symbols of wealth, power, and prestige but also as cherished companions, heroes, and gods. Horses are portrayed in ancient Greek vase-painting and sculpture in many forms ranging from pulling war chariots to legendary and mythical creatures.

Votive Offering

A votive offering is an object displayed or deposited, without the intention of recovery or practical use, in a sacred place for religious purposes. Such offerings were a feature of ancient societies and are generally made to gain favor. Some offerings were made in anticipation of the achievement of a particular wish, while other offerings were regarded just as gifts to the deity, not linked to a specific need.

Votive offering in ancient Greek society was not entirely based on private devotion, but it was a public act that demanded some form of public ritual. Votive offerings were not always small objects. The archaeological evidence suggests that even whole ships captured in battle were dedicated as offerings of thanks to the god. Treasuries and bronze statues were erected to celebrate victories in Panhellenic games.

The type, material, and size of the dedications reflected the period, social status, and financial state of the individual and city. Members of aristocratic and wealthy families commissioned statues and other expensive artifacts.

Reflections

  • Geometric Art shows our creative impulse even during the Greek Dark Ages.
  • Got to love Geometric Art, it helped free us from the Greek Dark Ages?
  • What votive offerings do modern societies make?
  • Ancient Greeks depicted horses as the noblest of creatures.
  • Horses were the most commonly dedicated animal in the Ancient Greek Arts.
  • “No philosophers so thoroughly comprehend us as dogs and horses.” – Herman Melville

Statuette of a Horse in Geometric Style

  • Title:              Statuette of a Horse in Geometric Style
  • Date:             730 BC
  • Location:       Olympia, Greece
  • Medium:       Bronze Statuette
  • Type:             Bronze
  • Dimensions:  12 x 3.8 cm
  • Acquired:      1931
  • Museum:      Altes Museum (German for Old Museum)

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“A man on a horse is spiritually, as well as physically, bigger than a man on foot.”
– John Steinbeck

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Photo Credit:  JOM

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