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Ancient Greece at the Met: Bronze Man and Centaur


The culture of Ancient Egypt represents one of the earliest attempts at identifying a man’s place in the grand scheme of the universe and compartmentalizing the phenomena and objects comprising the environment. The “Bronze Man and Centaur” statuette as a piece of art representing the specified era is a rather peculiar object to analyze (“The bronze man and centaur,” n.d.). As the title suggests, the specified artwork represents a human and a centaur and combines the elements of reality and a myth, thus embodying the unique philosophy of Ancient Greece and exemplifying its vision of a human being. 

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Although pinpointing the exact year in which the statuette was created is impossible at this point, it is stipulated that the “Bronze Man and Centaur” was produced around 1000 B.C.-1 A.D. (“The bronze man and centaur,” n.d.). The artwork portrays a fight between a man and a centaur, with a spear piercing the mythological creature, thus asserting the superiority of the human warrior. The specified scenario aligns with the traditional Ancient Greek concept of a centaur as a half-human, half-horse being that is driven by its instincts and usually juxtaposed to an intelligent human being (“The bronze man and centaur,” n.d.).

Therefore, the statuette portrays not a cruel fight but rather a triumph of civilization and progress over savagery and animal instincts. Made of bronze and crafted with impressive attention to detail, the statuette mimics the metopes of the Parthenon (“The bronze man and centaur,” n.d.). While embodying ancient art, the statuette also shares several similarities with contemporary art.


Bronze statuettes are rather common specimens of Ancient Greek art. Although thematically they vary to a considerable extent, the “Bronze Man and Centaur” shares a range of similarities with other works inspired by Ancient Greek myths. For example, the statuette portraying Panathenaic games can be regarded as similar in tone, materials, and nature to the “Bronze Man and Centaur” (“Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora,” n.d.).

Both “Bronze Man and Centaur” are dynamic and the statue depicting the Panathenaic games is dynamic, being fully devoid of static elements. Moreover, each conveys the idea of a man as the winner and the superior being, who dominates nature and accomplishes great deeds (Konaris, 2016). Similarly, the marble sculpture depicting a kouros, or a young person, represents a man of different social status, allowing one to explore the social relationships in Ancient Greece (“Marble statue of a kouros (youth),” n.d.). Each of the statuettes mentioned above celebrates the strengths and intelligence of a human being, applauding people’s accomplishments and carrying a distinct sense of vivacity.

Contemporary Architecture

Although the “Bronze Man and Centaur” belongs to the cultural context of Ancient Greece, it can be connected to contemporary art as well. Indeed, a closer look at the statuette will reveal that it resembles some of the modern art pieces due to similarities in the themes and representations of the key concepts. While modern art does not directly borrow the themes and ideas from the ones of Ancient Greece, the legacy of the specified art pieces can be located rather easily, For instance, the concept of dominance over nature represented in the statuette translates into the search for the place of a human being in nature. Numerous modern art pieces seek to locate and maintain the delicate balance between nature and civilization (Konaris, 2016). Thus, a range of modern art pieces may unknowingly carry the legacy of the “Bronze Man and Centaur.”


The bronze man and centaur. (n.d.). Web.

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Konaris, M. D. (2016). The Greek gods in modern scholarship: Interpretation and belief in nineteenth and early twentieth-century Germany and Britain. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Marble statue of a kouros (youth). (n.d.). Web.

Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora. (n.d.). Web.

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