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Well Done, Rallye Le Haut, by René Princeteau, ca. 1890

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oil on cloth, 160 x 130 cm, private collection

This hunting scene shows how two horses and their riders overcome a ditch in which they have landed and have to climb out of the water. A situation which belongs to the practice of hunting after hounds. These riders carry a hunting horn and direct their horses with only one hand. This is a French hunting scene, which is less well known than British sporting art. Hunting after hounds, however, has in France a similar tradition as in Britain, lasting until the present time. The artist René Princeteau (1843-1914) may be less well known than his British contempories like Joseph Crawhall, Lynwood Palmer or Alfred Munnings, but the way he rendered horses in the hunting field and in other activities was not less captivating. He participated in hunts out of Chantilly, on the invitation of the Duc d’Aumale, and used his own experiences in his paintings. Moreover his style was very original. He was the teacher of an artist, who became world-famous, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). In the horses of Toulouse-Lautrec one immediately recognizes the style of Princeteau, but very few paintings by Princeteau can be found in museums. The Musée des Beaux-Arts in Libourne (Gironde, France), however, is completely devoted to his work.

 

 

Wojciech Kossak, The charge at Rokitna on June 13, 1915

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1934, oil on canvas, ca. 40×60 cm, Muzeum Narodowe, Cracow

This spectacular painting commemorates the historical charge of the 2nd Brigade of the Polish Legions in the Austrian-Hungarian army against the Russian infantry. This battle took place near the the village of Rokitna on the eastern slopes of the Carpathians. In 1915 this area belonged to Austrian-Hungarian province of Bukovina, now this province belongs to Ukraine. The Polish won this battle in the First World War, but lost their commander and many other men. 19 years later Wojciech Kossak painted this scene on the basis of witness accounts. It is disconcerting to see the successful jump of a horse in the setting of a life-threatening battle of horses and sabres against rifles. We are so familiar with the show jumping sport that we can hardly realize that this ability of the horse was ever used for a completely different purpose. Wojciech Kossak pictured in 1934 what we, in our time, have learned through the movie “War Horse” by Steven Spielberg made in 2011, based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo from 1982.

Horse market in Mongolia by Willem Dooijewaard, 1926

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Dooijewaard1926

Pastel and charcoal on vellum, ca, 35×60 cm, signed and dated lower right, Singer Museum, Laren

This work gives us a detailed picture of Mongolian riders and their horses at a time when the horse (and the camel) was their only means of transport. Dooijewaard travelled all over Asia and left us with important documentation next to artistic value. Here we see the small and unelegant horses which excelled in stamina and endurance. We also see camels. To cross large deserts the camel was more suitable, but for all other purposes the horse was indispensable, especially when speed was important. It is not a coincidence that the Mongolian Derby still is a world-renownded event (which was completed by two Dutch amazons in recent years). In Mongolia also lived the wild Przewalski horse until about 1968, but the domestic Mongolian horse has a different exterior. The degree of relationship is still unclear. This work can now be viewed in the exhibit ‘Wanderlust’ in De Hallen in Haarlem, The Netherlands, until September 11, 2016.

 

 

Prince Siddartha leaves the royal palace on his horse Kanthaka

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Detail of a page from a folding album, Burma (Myanmar), early 19th century, 48 x 19 cm, British Library, London

Prior to his renunciation of the world, Gautama Buddha was the Indian Prince Siddartha. He rode the grey horse Kanthaka in all his exploits and defeated many opponents thanks to the qualities of this animal. The close relationship of Siddartha with his horse and with his groom Channa is emphasized in all Buddhist texts. Here we see Siddartha secretly leaving the palace on his horse while the horse’s hooves are supported by the gods, so as to prevent the guards from hearing the hoof beats. This is the beginning of Siddartha’s road to ascetism. Later Siddartha will dismount and send his groom and horse back to the palace. The important role of Kanthaka and the groom Channa is illustrated in all representations of Buddha’s life. It is an example of the special relationship between man and horse resulting from their achievements together. In Buddha’s life the end of this close relationship is the convincing symbol of Siddartha’s renunciation of the world. Horse and groom reluctantly accept the ending of the relationship and Kanthaka is said to have kneeled down to lick his rider’s feet as a farewell gesture. This scene is also often illustrated in Buddhist art. (Information from Dr. W.R. van Gulik is gratefully acknowledged. See also Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden, The Netherlands, where a large exhibition is devoted to The Buddha, until 14th August 2016).

 

 

Catharina II of Russia and her stallion Brillante, by Vigilius Eriksen, 1782

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Eriksen

oil painting on cloth, 97×88,5 cm, National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen, KMS3633

Csarina Catharina (1729-1796) is dressed as a man and her whole habitus is male in this painting. She wears the uniform of the Preobrazhensky elite regiment, also her body guard. Catharina holds her sabre upright as a whip, in line with the riding manuals of the time. Her seat is also exemplary. The grey stallion shows the type of the Lipizzan breed, characteristic for the barock period. Its name is mentioned as Brillante, so this is a portrait of her horse as well. Catharina was not only the ruler of Russia, but also active in the European cultural scene including the art of riding. Her equestrian portrait shows her dominating character but also her ambition to be an impressive rider. Eriksen made the first version of this portrait in 1762 for the Throne Room of the Peterhof Palace in Saint Petersburg, where it still is. The version shown here is smaller. The Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam devotes an exhibition to Catharina II and her life, starting 18 June 2016.

 

A goods wagon on the service London – Ludlow, by Jacques-Laurent Agasse, 1801

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AgasseFourgon

oil on canvas, 64×77 cm, Õffentliche Kunstsammlung, Kunstmuseum Basel

The heavy goods wagon is also called ‘fourgon’ and is meant to transport a large amount of goods over a long distance. Here we see the regular service between London and Ludlow, a distance of about 228 km. This trip probably took four days. Even some passengers ride between the goods. The beautiful team of eight horses is not driven from a box seat on the wagon but by a separate rider. He rides a small horse without stirrups next to the wagon and has a long whip. The wagon has very broad wheels with a special shape to avoid sinking in the mud or sand. All horses are greys and carefully selected. They carry a round bag on top of their harness, maybe containing a blanket. Agasse was a very able animal painter and he also had a good eye for this special team and their wagon.

String of horses outside an inn, by Otto Bache, 1878

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oil on canvas, 140×205 cm, Statens Museum for Konst, Copenhagen (on loan from the Royal family since 2010)

The horses on this picture have been tied to each other with the rope of their halter to the tail of the foregoing horse. In this way eight horses form a group that is led by only one rider. He rides the front horse on the left. The rider apparently has made a stop at the inn, where other visitors are showing him out. Among them a postillion who blows his horn, so causing unrest with the horses. The fourth horse of the string is a spotted one, probably from the Knabstrup stud. The last horse has some Arabian traits. All horses have the tail tied up to facilitate the knot of the halter rope. This is the cheapest and easiest way to transport a group of horses, maybe to a horse market. Connecting a group of horses to each other was practised in various ways in the 19th century. Here we see the simplest way.

Working horse from Zeeland, by Jan Toorop, 1905

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Toorop

charcoal and crayon on paper, 390×500 mm, signed and dated, Venduehuis The Hague, 11 November 2015, lot 444

Jan Toorop (1858-1928) was a Dutch painter who made, among many other subjects, drawings of people in working situations. He rarely used animals in his works, but here he has made an impressive portrait of a common working horse. Behind the horse the farmer is visible as a sketch. All attention goes to the relaxed head and the massive body of the horse.  This impression is reinforced because the horse covers the whole picture. We can consider this horse as a an example of the Zeeland horse, which is the Dutch version of the Belgian draught horse. There were many famous breeders of this heavy horse in Zeeland. Jan Toorop spent many summers in Domburg (island of Walcheren, province of Zeeland) and we may assume this drawing was made there.  The drawing has the annotation ‘aan Spoor’, which must refer to the narrow gauge track (1067 mm) between Middelburg and Domburg, which was built in 1905, became operational in 1906 and was suspended in 1937. On the right the track is visible, giving this work a topographical and historical aspect.

Stables, by Franz Marc, 1913

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oil painting on cloth, 73,6×57,5 cm, 1913 dated, monogrammed M lower right, annotated on the backside ‘Stallungen/Fr.Marc Sindelsdorf Ob. Bayern’, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Franz Marc has seen the beauty of a stable with heavy horses in stalls. The horses seen from the back turn their heads towards the viewer. Marc used the theme of horses turning their heads backward more often in his work. Animals were the fascination of Franz Marc and horses in the first place. For him animals were the way to discover cosmic forces in nature. He used horses more often in landscapes than indoor, such as here.  Apparently here he was impressed by the regularity of lines of the horses in their stalls.  This stable interior must have been in a large farm. Franz Marc was killed in the first world war. In 1911 he had founded with Kandinsky and Jawlensky the group “Der blaue Reiter’.

The quadriga of ‘Immortality’ overrules ‘Time’, by Georges Recipon, 1900

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bronze, 7 m high on 22 m high column, next to Grand Palais, side of Avenue des Champs-Elysées

This allegory was created on the occasion of the World Exposition 1900 in Paris. ‘Immortality’ is a female quadriga driver. She holds a laurel wreath in one hand and the book of memory in the other, both to reward the creative genius. The team of four horses jumps over an old man with a scythe who represents ‘Time’.  In this way the victory of creative performance over temporary life is given shape. It is striking that the horses do not trample on the old man on the ground, but just jump over him, as horses naturally would do. The artist has made an impressive sculpture in which the four horses play the dominant role, although the victorious ‘Immortality’ is the leading figure. Many people will have passed along the Grand Palais in Paris without seeing this sculpture and its counterpart ‘Harmony overrules Discord’. The high position makes it difficult to view them. All the more a reason to choose this work to start the new year 2016.