The elegant simplicity and economy of Geometric art is evident in this small bronze statue that represents a man confronting a centaur. The ancient artist who created this work depicted the pair of figures as basic geometric forms. Indeed, the man is little more than a slightly embellished vertical line, while the centaur is essentially a rhythmic arrangement of horizontal and vertical shapes. This play of horizontal and vertical elements gives the sculpture a harmonious and pleasing appearance.
The visual appeal of this statue is quite evident, but the meaning of this piece is somewhat more elusive. It is clear that the man is interacting with the centaur (centaurs, incidentally, are legendary half-man half-horse hybrids in Greek mythology). However, there is some debate about whether this is a peaceful or aggressive situation. Some scholars have suggested that the pair of figures are embracing each other in a friendly fashion. It is therefore possible that they are meant to represent the mythical duo Achilles (the man) and Chiron (the centaur). Equally possible is the interpretation that man and centaur are locked in combat, making it likely that they could be acting out another famous scene from Greek myth, in which the hero Herakles confronts the malicious centaur Nessos.
Learn more about the role the centaurs played in Greek mythology at Mythography.
John Boardman, the author of this book, is one of the most respected experts of ancient Greek art. And his work is an excellent introduction to the study of this subject, with images and text that brings Greek sculpture, vase painting, and architecture vividly to life.
This beautifully illustrated book (from the Phaidon Art and Ideas series and written by Nigel Spivey) covers the subject of ancient Greek art brilliantly.