DÜRER, Albrecht
(b. 1471, Nürnberg, d. 1528, Nürnberg)

Small Horse

Engraving, 164 x 109 mm
Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe

In this engraving, created in 1505, Dürer shows an equal degree of interest in spatial central perspective and the ideal proportions of a horse. A small, muscular horse is whinnying and nervously pawing with his forehoof in a barrel vaulted space. The animal is accompanied by a shouting groom in a fantastic costume. The winged helmet and shoes indicate that Mercury is being depicted. The group of figures appears to be confined within the walls, which are constructed according to the principles of central perspective. The burning vase in the background is an eternal fire alluding to human reason; as a result, the interpretation that has been generally accepted is that unbridled passion - in the form of the horse - has been tamed by the force of human reason - symbolized by Mercury and the eternal fire.