The Small Horse
Albrecht Dürer, designer
The Small Horse, 1505
Engraving on paper
Plate: 16.5 x 10.8 cm (6 1/2 x 4 1/4 inches)
Gift of Mrs. Murray S. Danforth 30.026
(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 Large Horse (inv. #30.025), 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.
The Brilliant LineFollowing the Early Modern Engraver, 1480-1650
Edited ByLiese, Jennifer, ed.
Contributions byPeters, Emily, Evelyn Lincoln, and Andrew Raftery
Publisher & DateMuseum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 2009