Life and training of embroiderers, £8.99
Length: 16.300 cm
Purchased from Peccadeau de l'Isle for the Christy Collection
P&EE Sieveking Catalogue no. 691
Stone plaque decorated with horses
Late Magdalenian, about 12,500 years old
From the rockshelter of Montastruc, Tarn-et-Garonne, France
An ingenious composition
The faint lines that can just be made out on the surface of this block hide a masterpiece. By looking carefully it is possible to find drawings of three horses and a reindeer. All the animals face right. The horses share a tail, hindquarters and penis.
The smallest horse is cantering. To the right of the small horse head is another. Tracing the lines, this animal is drawn standing with the nose, chest and front legs of a third horse shown as if beside it.
Beneath the horses is a female reindeer, its legs bent and a dart sticking out of its shoulder. The animal may be running but looks more as if seen from above, lying dead on the ground.
When first drawn the engraved outlines of the animal would have shown up fresh and white on the grey limestone surface. The picture would have been clear. The positioning of drawings one on top of another is often found in the art of this period. It is a deliberate type of ingenious composition which may have been drawn to tell a story or call on spiritual powers.
A. Sieveking, A catalogue of Palaeolithic ar (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)