The Small Horse
Albrecht Dürer, German, The Small Horse, 1505, Engraving on paper; 16.5 x 10.8 cm (6 1/2 x 4 5/16 inches) (plate), Gift of Mrs. Murray S. Danforth 30.026
Classical beauty, harmonious proportions, and rational perspective, all Renaissance ideals exhibited in this engraving, were particular preoccupations of the German artist Albrecht Dürer. The composition functions both as a display piece of perfect equine proportions and an allegorical meditation on the balance of passion and intellect. During the Renaissance, a horse could symbolize both virility and violence, while a vase bursting with flames, as seen above the horse, was a symbol for rational intelligence. The curious soldier figure behind the horse wears the winged accouterments of Mercury, a deity associated with both material profit and erratic volatility. Dürer’s exquisite engraving technique was well suited to describing the scene’s many textures and forms from rough, variegated stone to fine hair and bulging muscle.