The story of the Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum, £8.99
Length: 0.910 m
Excavated by Sir Charles Fellows
GR 1848.10-20.18 (Sculpture B 312)
Room 15: Athens and Lycia
Marble frieze slab with horse and groom
Greek, around 450 BC
Perhaps from building G on the Acropolis at Xanthos, Lykia (modern Günük, south-western Turkey)
Reused on the Acropolis at Xanthos
In this relief slab from a frieze a large horse almost conceals the accompanying figure of a man who is either its groom or rider. The man wears a tunic coming to just above his knees and he holds the reins of the horse with his right hand. The horse has a cloth for a saddle. His head is lowered and his tail down, perhaps indicating the solemnity of a funerary procession. However, another surviving slab of the frieze shows a less composed horse almost rearing up as if to gallop, while a third has a charioteer eagerly pulling on the reins of a team of horses. This representation of horse and man is unusual in the fairly accurate rendition of their relative sizes: often in Greek art men are far too large compared to their horses.
This and other slabs from the processional frieze were found reused in a later wall on the acropolis at Xanthos. Remains of several other architectural sculptures in relief were also found and recent research has attempted to associate these sculptures with three specific buildings. The function of these structures is not entirely clear, but it has been suggested that they were hero shrines: focuses of worship for important people who were connected with the city's historical or mythical past. The buildings were tower monuments with architectural features that imitated timber constructions. The equestrian frieze to which this slab belongs probably decorated the exterior of building G, which was flat-topped with a pillared interior that also had a sculptured frieze.
J. Boardman, Greek sculpture: the late Clas (London, Thames and Hudson, 1995)
E. Slatter, Xanthus: travels and discovery (London, Rubicon Press, 1994)
F.N. Pryce, Catalogue of sculpture in the (London, 1928)