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HOME : Classical Antiquities : Classical Masterpieces : Bronze Sculpture of Bucephalus
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Bronze Sculpture of Bucephalus - FZ.391
Origin: Mediterranean
Circa: 350 BC to 200 BC
Dimensions: 3.5" (8.9cm) high x 1.5" (3.8cm) wide
Collection: Classical
Medium: Bronze

Location: UAE
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The legend of Alexander the Great’s favorite steed, Bucephalus, begins when Philonicus the Thessalian brought the horse to Philip II, King of Macedonia and father of Alexander, offering to sell him for thirteen talents. However, when they went into the field to ride him, they found him very vicious and unmanageable. He reared up when they attempted to mount him and would not listen to the commands of any of Philip's attendants. As they were leading him away as wholly useless and intractable, Alexander, who stood by watching, said, "What an excellent horse do they lose for want of address and boldness to manage him!" Philip at first took no notice of what he said; but when he heard him repeat the same thing several times, and saw he was much vexed to see the horse sent away, he responded: "Do you reproach those who are older than yourself, as if you knew more, and were better able to manage him than they?" "I could manage this horse," Alexander replied, "better than others do." "And if you do not," said Philip, "what will you forfeit for your rashness?" "I will pay," answered Alexander, "the whole price of the horse." At this the whole company burst into laughter; yet as soon as the wager was settled amongst them, he immediately ran to the horse, took hold of the bridle, and turned him directly towards the sun. Alexander, it seems, observed that Bucephalus was disturbed by the motion of his own shadow. Then letting him go forward a little, still keeping the reins in his hands, stroking him gently when he found him begin to grow eager and fiery, and with one nimble leap he securely mounted him. When he was seated, Alexander drew in the bridle, and curbed him without either striking or spurring him. Eventually, he let Bucephalus run at full speed, inciting him now with a commanding voice, and urging him also with his heel. Philip and his friends looked on in silence, anxious of the result, until they saw him come back and began to rejoice in triumph. His father, King Philip, in tears of joy, kissed him as he came down from his horse, and stated the prophetic phrase, "O my son, look thee out a kingdom equal to and worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee." This marked the beginning of Alexander and Bucephalus’ relationship, an alliance that would lead them to the edges of the known world. Eventually, Bucephalus died in 326 B.C. after the battle on the Hydaspes River. Alexander founded the city Bucephala there in his honor.

This beautiful bronze sculpture embodies the strength, the power, and the regality of the steed Bucephalus. Perhaps no other horse in history is quite so legendary; after all, how many stallions have their life stories chronicled by the likes of Plutarch? The sculptor has captured the energy and force of this mythic horse as he leaps forward into the air, his tail waving in the breeze. The attributes of the Nimean lion skin cape tied around his body and the small horn protruding from his head both positively confirm the identification as Bucephalus. What a proud and majestic creature! The sculptor has imbedded him with tremendous character and individual charm. The intricate details and molding of his facial features are generally reserved for human portrayals. The sensitivity of his eyes, the individual hairs of his mane, and the texture of the lion skin all reveal this to be the work of a master. It is appropriate that such a marvelous figure as Bucephalus be treated by such an expert sculpture. This extraordinary masterpiece is a true rarity: when subject and portrayal are both equally legendary and timeless.
- (FZ.391)


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