The Large Horse
Albrecht Dürer, designer
The Large Horse, 1505
Engraving on laid paper, trimmed along platemark
Plate: 16.5 x 11.8 cm (6 1/2 x 4 5/8 inches)
Gift of Mrs. Murray S. Danforth 30.025
(September 18, 2009 – January 3, 2010)
This print demonstrates Dürer’s mature graphic system, in which he responded to the precision and clarity of engraving, describing both texture and space by varying the direction, density, and arrangement of lines in controlled sections. Short flicks mediate the transitions from highlighted areas to tonal areas, while the darkest shadows are achieved by short lines laid between two longer ones. Elegant s-curves travel across forms to create volume. These uniformly sized sheets were called “half-sheets” and were the most frequent of Dürer’s formats. Such prints offered an atlas for the application of Dürer’s tonal system as they traveled to other practitioners in France, Italy, Spain, and even the New World.
Designed as a companion print to his Small Horse (inv. #30.026), these prints are visual essays on the ideal and naturalistic qualities of the horse. The small horse is presented in profile and perfectly proportioned in a posture related to ancient equestrian statues. The large horse is shown in a unique stance, its hind legs raised, in order to accentuate its muscularity and physical presence.(June 5 –October 26, 2008)
This engraving accentuates the muscularity and physical presence of the animal through the unusual angle and the raising of its hind legs on a step. During the Renaissance, a horse could symbolize both virility and violence; along with these ideal associations, however, Dürer was interested in displaying the natural qualities of the horse’s muscles and hair.