Large Horse Albrecht Durer Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Bold and striking, The Large Horse by Albrecht Durer depicts a muscular creature with its hind legs in the foreground and their positioning emphasising the beast's physical stature. The titular animal is accompanied by a warrior holding the bridle and appearing to move forward in pursuit of an unknown foe.

Horses served as the central focus of many of Durer's engravings. The Large Horse was created in 1505 and accompanied in the same year by The Small Horse, with the latter depicting an unbridled, seemingly excitable animal. That work is in stark contrast to this piece, where the larger horse appears steadfast and docile while being shown in much finer detail. Critically, it is believed that both works depict the same animal at two contrasting stages of its military career. While always a powerful animal, the training and experience of the subject has led to the Large Horse reaching the peak of its capabilities through restraint and self-control. While the smaller horse in these companion works demonstrates the natural vigour and enthusiasm of the creature under restraint from the superior intellect of its warrior handler, the animal depicted in this engraving has ascended from its wild, uncontrollable mentality to exercise discipline and become an inherently more useful creature.

The disciplinary metaphor throughout both companion pieces emphasises the importance of control and regulation, either internally or externally, for the fulfilment of potential. The superior wisdom of the warrior compared to his steed is emphasised further by the intricate carvings on the helmet. Two further animals enter the piece through this metallic headgear, in the form of the caterpillar and the dolphin. The former suggests the Large Horse's transformation from a small, mostly nondescript creature to a butterfly. The dolphin, considered among the most intelligent animals on the planet, further emphasises the handler's intellectual superiority over the horse.

As with many of Durer's works, The Large Horse touches on the theme of religion, as the medieval Christian knight succeeds in turning his companion into a beast that will actively enhance his questing efforts. The original work was created using black engraving on ivory laid paper and stands at 16.7 cm in height, and 11.8 cm in width. Originally made in Nurnberg, Germany, prints of the original work are highly prized and appear in collections such as those held at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago. The engraving and subsequent prints incorporate the year of creation into the artwork at the top, along with Durer's 'AD' monogram in the bottom left corner of the piece.