Equestrian Statues

1. Equestrian Statues
2. Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius
2.1 Descriptives
2.2 History
2.3 Artistic Characteristics

Equestrian Statues

Equestrian statues were common in the Antiquity and in the Renaissance [1]. Equestrian statues from the Antiquity rarely survived. The only bronze equestrian statue that has been preserved is the Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius. The reason that those statues hardly survived, is due to the fact that bronze statues were melted done to fabricate coins or new statues in the Late Empire. Medieval Christians destroyed the bronze statues as well, since they thought that the equestrian statues were pagan idols [2]. The reason that the Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius, was not melted down, is that the Christians thought that the statue resembled the emperor Constantine, the first Christian Emperor. The Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius has become an example for later equestrian statues, especially in the Renaissance [3], and is also depicted on the €0,50 coin.

Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius

The Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius on the Capitoline

In the open air of the Piazza del Campidoglio, the ancient Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius is looking over a part of the territory of Rome. To be honest, a replica does this since 1981 as the original statue is now on display in the Capitoline Museums since it was taken down for restauration [4].


The bronze sculpture is more than 4 meters long en 3.5 meters high [2,6] and initially, the sculpture was covered with gold. Today there is hardly anything left of the gold [5].


The original statue was probably made in 176 AD after the defeat of several Germanic tribes (Marcomannic Wars). Others say that the statue was created in 180 AD after Marcus Aurelius' dead [6,5]. The exact location, however, is still unknown. Two locations have been proposed, the Forum Romanum and the Piazza Colonna where the Column of Marcus Aurelius stands [6]. Since 1538 the statue was placed on the Piazza del Campidoglio, when Michelangelo redesigned the square. Although Michelangelo was not pleased with this central positioning, he designed the footage for the statue which is covered with the weapon of the Pope, the Farnese lillies [5].

Artistic Characteristics

The emperor is depicted over lifesize, since the statue is almost 4 meters high and long. It is enormous and together with the gesture of the Emperor, it portrays some kind of confidence [3]. The emperor is holding out his hand in a gesture, the palm of the hand is focused downwards, probably to his people. Maybe this is a sign of him being a bringer of peace, rather than a military hero since he does not carry any armor or weapons [4]. Some historians make the assumption that he is holding is hand out to a fallen enemy that is begging for mercy beneath the horse’s raised hoof. That might portray the Emperor as victorious.

The statue represents the talents in the Arts of the Romans, looking at the sculpture it seems that the Romans understood the anatomy of the human and the horse very well. Nevertheless, there can be found utterly strong details in the drapery of the clothing of Marcus Aurelius. The statue does not look stiff, since the horse seems to be in motion, it is pulling to the right just as the right side of Marcus Aurelius does, who is besides pulling to right also is leaning forward. In his left arm, there seems to be a tension that he is pulling back. The horse en Marcus Aurelius seems the be in perfect balance, the tiny details that seems to induce motion and the control that Marcus Aurelius has over the horse make the statue a 'lively statue' [3].


  1. http://www.roman-empire.net/highpoint/marcaurelius.html, viewed 22-08-2013
  2. http://en.museicapitolini.org/collezioni/percorsi_per_sale/museo_del_palazzo_dei_conservatori/esedra_di_marco_aurelio/statua_equestre_di_marco_aurelio, viewed 22-08-2013
  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4nK5uXuPXM
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equestrian_Statue_of_Marcus_Aurelius, viewed 22-08-2013
  5. http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruiterstandbeeld_van_Marcus_Aurelius, viewed 22-08-2013
  6. http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM98YZ_Equestrian_Statue_of_Marcus_Aurelius_Rome_Italy, viewed 22-08-2013