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Bronze horse and rider
Greek, about 560-550 BC
From Armento, Basilicata, southern Italy
The 'Armento Rider'
This bronze horse and rider is one of the earliest pieces of sculpture to survive from what is known as Western Greece (Magna Graecia). Though it is small (23.6 cm high), the horse and rider have a monumental quality which seems to give them dignity and status. The warrior wears a Corinthian-style helmet and a short tunic. He once held a spear and reins, that were probably made of copper wire.
Both horse and rider are extremely fine examples of bronze-casting. It is difficult to make large solid bronzes because of the risk of cracks and holes appearing in the metal as it cools. This may in part account here for the elongation of the horse's body, as a deliberate measure to avoid too large a mass of metal. Hollow-casting was known at this period but was not yet widely practised.
The bronze was bought in Naples in 1833 by the Hungarian collector Gábor Fejérváry, whose large collection was later inherited by his nephew Ferenc Pulszky. Although it is often called the Grumentum rider after a site in Basilicata, recent study of early documents has shown that the bronze was probably found at Armento, some twelve kilometres away, where other Archaic bronzes have been recovered from tombs. The findspot seems to have been wrongly quoted as Grumentum in a brief publication in 1853.
L. Burn, The British Museum book of Gre (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)
C. Rolley, Greek bronzes (London, Sotheby's Publications / Chesterman Publications, 1986)