Saturday, March 31, 2007

Geometric horses

Here are some small, bronze horses from, probably, the 8th century B.C.E. Actual horses were a Very Big Deal to the communities from which these pieces come, and it seems likely that their representation here is meant to capture or convey something about the extraordinary power and value of horses. That power is likely—I don’t know—to derive from a combination of the natural beauty and desirability of actual horses. To possess a horse was to possess status and, one assumes, power. The aesthetic sense here, however, is conveyed by means of abstraction and bare essentials.They look like horses--they are horses--yet they are hardly realistic. They are more about "horsiness" in a Platonic sense than about any particular horse. They are small--hand-size--and probably served as votive offerings

Look at them. Their thighs are immense, their withers robust, their tails elegantly yet absurdly long, their heads held in a characteristic quizzical manner conveying interest and personality, and their parts are fitted together with the most delicate articulation. They have no bodies to speak of. Yet I am sure they were the occasion of much reverent speech by their proud owners and dedicators. The gods, we can only assume, would have been grateful.