Painting and carving the horse

I’ve been leading up to examining The Horse in Art and there can be no doubt in my mind that the horse is God’s most beautiful creature. The Horse in Art is a very complicated topic therefore all I can do is whet your appetite to look further.

Artists have been reproducing The Horse in many different mediums since long before written language was invented. The earliest cave drawings of horses (and other animals) have been found in the Chauvet Cave in Southern France, dating to about 30,000 BC.
Here is a horse and rider from the Ennedi Plateau in Chad. It is believed the art in this area dates from between 9,000 & 4,000 years ago. Some of the large animal engravings may date 12,000 years or more.
In terms of Chinese art, most of the early horse figures were made to be buried in tombs. Here is a wonderful carriage with horses (for the emperor) from the Qin Dynasty (210BC).
If you are interested there's an excellent summary of the Horse in Chinese History at:

Horses have been represented in art in so many ways. As statues, as images in paintings of landscapes, religious scenery, battlefields, pictures of the gentry, as the working partners of peasants, And in a genre of their own as race horses and show horses.

Representing the Ancient Greek culture I have chosen this wonderful horse on a frieze from the Parthenon. Construction began in 447BC and was completed between 438BC and 432BC.
And who but Caligula should be seen representing the horse in Roman culture. I believe this to be a statue of Incitatus, his favourite horse.

In Gallo-Roman religion, Epona was a protector of horses, ponies, donkeys & mules as well as being a goddess of fertility! Here we have Epona ( 2nd-3rd AD) from Contern, Luxembourg.
I'm not forgetting how important the horse was to the Celtic culture that so many of us have running through our veins. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find any examples of horses in Celtic art but have learnt that the Celtic Council of Australia has three horses in its emblem.

It was of course Leonardo da Vinci who worked hard at getting all his drawings correct and the horse was no exception.
But it was the Renaissance artists who really placed the horse in its rightful place in terms of art history and equestrian art. Here is Titian's Equestrian Portrait of Charles V (also Emperor Charles V on Horseback or Charles V at Mühlberg) painted in 1548.

Following on, the Baroque painters also liked horses. I have chosen Anthony van Dyck, the Flemish artist to show off what he could do with a horse demonstrated here in St Martin Dividing his Cloak.

However the horse had to wait until Tudor times in England (1485 - 1603) to achieve its supreme place in society. Here is King Henry VIII followed by Sir Anthony Browne and Sir Charles Brandon 1st Duke of Suffolk from the Cowdray Engravings.

As an aside, and nothing to do with horses, the Cowdray Engravings are based on five paintings (produced between 1545 & 1548) for Sir Anthony Browne, King Henry VIII's Master of the Horse. They were painted onto the walls of Browne's hall in Cowdray House showing key scenes in his life. In the 1760s Philip Yorke, the Earl of Hardwick (and a keen antiquarian) proposed producing engravings of the paintings. Cowdray House burnt down in 1793 and the paintings were mostly destroyed leaving the engravings as the only record.

Now Henry VIII might not have liked many of his wives but he definitely liked his horses. According to Alison Weir in her book Henry VIII: The King and His Court one of his favourite horses (not wives) was called Canicida. Henry also bred horses being known for starting the process to acquire the ultimate War Horse. And Henry was the first English king to race horses. Here he is on a horse at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.

The Field of the Cloth of Gold (French: Camp du Drap d'Or) was a site in Balinghem – between Ardres in France and Guînes in the then-English Pale of Calais – that hosted a summit from 7 to 24 June 1520, between King Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France.(Wikipedia)

We will have to leave horses here for today but we will continue on this topic tomorrow. Of course we need to spend time looking at the work of Degas and his wonderful horse race images but also Aimé Nicolas Morot (1850–1913) who was a French painter and sculptor producing fantastic images of horses and other animals.

An excellent summary of Horse Art in History can be found at:

Anne Newman

Oil Painter in realistic genre style, predominantly buildings and people. To continue the discussion contact Anne on or phone +61 407 516 522

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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