Skip navigation

Prince Siddartha leaves the royal palace on his horse Kanthaka

for direct access to the database The Horse in Art in RKDimages click here



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

for direct access to the database The Horse in Art in RKDimages click here



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

for direct access to the database The Horse in Art in RKDimages click here


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

for direct access to the database The Horse in Art in RKDimages click here


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

for direct access to the database The Horse in Art in RKDimages click here


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

for direct access to the database The Horse in Art in RKDimages click here


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

for direct access to the database The Horse in Art in RKDimages click here

Recipon1 (2)

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.

Carlo Crivelli, Adoration of the Child, 1453-1495

for direct access to the database The Horse in Art in RKDimages click here



tempera on panel, 29×37 cm, part of the altar piece La pala Odoni, National Gallery (London)

Most striking in this nativity scene is the dominating position of the donkey and the ox. Joseph has fallen asleep but Maria gives all her attention to the newborn child. The child lies on a slip of Maria’s mantle and is naked. Therefore it very much needs the warmth of the donkey and the ox through their breath expired in the direction of Jezus. The artist has chosen to emphasize the role of the animals in this nativity scene. The donkey and the ox are the only creatures who can assist Maria in the care for her child in these circumstances. The artist has given us an example of the interdependency between man and animal. This example is time-bound and will not happen in our time, but the value of the animal for the well-being of man is still a reality. Carlo Crivelli must have been aware of this significance of animals in man’s society. Although the donkey and the ox are present on the background of most nativity scenes , this particular painting highlights their role and emphasizes their importance.


Prince Hendrik and his company in a hunting wagon on the moor at Soeren, by Ernst Hugo von Stenglin, 1901

for direct access to the database The Horse in Art in RKDimages click here


oil painting on cloth, 110×150 cm, signed and dated, Rijksmuseum Paleis Het Loo, Apeldoorn, inv. nr. PL290

Prince Hendrik (1876-1934) was the husband of Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands. They married in 1901. He was a passionate hunter and often made tours on horseback with Wilhelmina, which she mentions in her memoirs. This painting is a portrait not only of Hendrik but also of the horses, the hound and the hunting personnel. On a sketch on the backside the painter has indicated all names. The horses are Korsar (front left), Koslak (front right), Kathi (left behind) and Kitty (right behind). In the back of the carriage are huntsman baron Van Zuylen, the chief hunter Vogt and Hela, the hound. Prince Hendrik sits in front with a hunted stag at his feet. The carriage is driven by the head coachman Schwebke. At some distance rides game master Beyer on the horse Edward. Prince Hendrik came from Mecklenburg and so came several of the hunting staff came. It is likely that the horses also came from there. The hunters are dressed in green suits and capes with hunter’s hat. The coachman wears the livery uniform with long coat and top hat. The painter Von Stenglin was a friend of Prins Hendrik from Mecklenburg. This group portrait indicats the appreciation of Prince Hendrik for those who worked with him, people and animals alike. The painting is on permanent loan from the Stichting Historische Verzamelingen van het Huis Oranje Nassau (courtesy Hanna Klarenbeek, curator Paleis Het Loo).



Portrait of Frédéric Audéoud-Fazy, his horse and his hound, by Jacques Laurent Agasse, 1796-99

for direct access to the database The Horse in Art in RKDimages click here


oil painting on canvas, 23,2×29,6 cm, Musée d’ Art et d’ Histoire, Geneva, acc. nr. 1913-68

This painting shows more than the portrait of a gentleman. Mr. Audéoud-Fazy’ s face is hardly visible, but the viewer’ s eye is at first attracted by the horse and the hound. The horse is not an impressive thoroughbred or hunter as one may expect. but rather an ugly strong animal. Yet this is the horse the rider has chosen for the combined portrait. So we can conclude that this horse had all the qualities his rider wanted. He apparently did not care about handsomeness. The hound, a pointer, shows his obedience while his master talks to him and the horse just waits for instructions. It is a pity the name of the horse and the hound have not been recorded in the archives. The three must have had many fine hours in the field. Mr. Audéoud-Fazy was a member of the Council of Plainpalais (borough of Geneva). In this painting he was about 30 yers old.