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French artillery horses embarking on a train by Henri Baud, c. 1919

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pastel and charcoal heightened with white on paper, 25 x 33,5 cm, signed, private collection

Henri Baud was a French artist serving as an artillery officer in the First World War. In 1915 he was on the Western Front, as an interpreter for colonel Claude Charlton of the 37th British Royal Artillery Division (information from Roderick MacLeod). The scene here shows French artillery horses on their way to the front. Most striking is the peace and relaxation of the horses during loading. They walk calmly onto the cart serving as loading bridge to the train carriage. Other horses are waiting for their turn. The soldiers must have ridden the horses at high speed to the railway station, because we see steaming bodies. The artist accurately rendered the complicated harness of the artillery horses, which pull the guns while ridden by soldiers. This historical scene has much documentary value.

Lost in the snow storm – We are friends

by Charles Russell, 1888

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cloth, 60,9 x 109,5 cm, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth TX, inv. no. 1961.144.

A group of five American Indians on horseback is lost in a snow storm. They happen to meet two cowboys with their pack horse and exchange information in sign language, making clear they do not want to be enemies. In our time we can hardly imagine the situation of horsemen riding in a snow storm hoping to find some game to hunt and then getting lost. The picture also shows how the riders could trust their horses even in the harsh weather. The American Indians liked spotted horses, like the one in front, and this color pattern is still popular among American horse people.


Orpheus Playing for the Wild Animals

by H. le Foy, 1636


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Print, approx. 19 x 11 cm, signed lower right, frontispiece in: F. Marin Mersenne, ‘Harmonie universelle, contenant la théorie et la pratique de la musique’, Paris 1636. Gemeentemuseum Den Haag.

In the Greek mythology Orpheus had the talent to bring anybody to civilized morals through his enchanting singing and playing the lyre. His talent also extended to the wild animals, as shown in this picture. The scene is used here to symbolize ‘Harmonie Universelle’, the subject of a book on the theory and practice of music. The last lines from Psalm 150 were added, in which all creatures are exhorted to praise the Lord with harp and lyre. We see the lion, buck, dog, camel, dog, monkey, cat, mouse, rabbit, deer, turtle, and the horse. The position of the horse is striking. It oversees the group and shows its strong attention to the music by the high position of its head and upright neck. In the mythological story Orpheus is playing for wild animals, but this horse with its braided mane can hardly be considered as wild. Here the horse may be seen as the animal built for freedom and speed, that nevertheless is always serving man with its wonderful ability to adapt. Even in its serfdom, the horse never gives up its joy of freedom. That quality makes the horse so fascinating for artists.

Winter in War-Time Vienna at the Opernplatz

by Franz Witt, 1917-1918

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watercolor, 37 x 57 cm, signed lower right, annotated and dated lower left, Dorotheum, sale 2 December 1999

This winter scene shows the heavy traffic on the Opernplatz in Vienna during the Great War. We see all kinds of horse-drawn carriages and commercial vehicles.  In the middle a timber bob drawn by two horses with blankets, while the driver sits on the pole, which is destined to transport heavy logs to a sawmill, now without load. Behind this vehicle a sleigh, drawn by a team of two bays, with a coachman and a couple as passengers. On the right a wagon with high boards loaded with something like coal. On the left a cab (Einspänner) with two soldiers and a dog as passengers. A team of two grey horses is visible on the background, probably Lipizzaners. An electric tramway runs along the Opera building. Horses not only occupy the street, but two sculpted horses also dominate the front of the impressive Opera building. On top of the loggia stand two winged horses ridden by the Muses Harmony and Erato, symbols for the arts performed in the building and sculpted by Ernst Julius Hähnel (1876). In this work we see a beautiful combination of the practical value of the horse for transport and the inspirational value of the horse for the arts, even in this war-time city.

 

 

The entry of Emperor Franz Joseph I to Cracow

by Juliusz Kossak, 1881

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Watercolor on paper, 390 x 570 mm, signed and dated lower right, Muzeum Narodowe, Krakow, inv. cat, nr. III-r.a. 12.774

This painting shows several pecularities. In contrast to the title, the emphasis is not on the carriage of the Emperor but on the carriage of the City President Mikolaj Zyblikiewicz. The artist has placed his carriage in the centre of the painting. Moreover his landau carriage is drawn by a team of four horses, while the more simple victoria carriage of the Emperor is drawn by a team of only two. The blue and white colors of the harness, the uniforms and the carriage are those of the city of Krakow. The four grey horses are much more conspicuous than the two bay ones which draw the Emperor’s carriage. Also the harness of his horses is regular compared with the gala harness of the grey horses. Zyblikiewicz rides with two grooms on the box seat and a rider on the left hind horse to drive the team. Franz Joseph’s horses are driven by a coachman accompanied by an adjutant on the box seat. The green and yellow Habsburg colors are visible only in the uniform of Franz Joseph and his companion, but not in the harness of his horses. Altogether it seems the City President has chosen for a state escort while the Emperor appeared in a more modest style. Miscommunication or deliberate action ?

Equestrian portrait of the young Louis XIV

by Justus van Egmont, c.1643

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oil painting on panel, 41 x 30 cm, not signed, Musée Condé, Chantilly

Louis, who in 1643 had become King of France, is portrayed as a hunter with his falcon sitting on his left hand. At that time he was 5 or 6 years old but he was already represented as a professional falcon hunter. That image belonged to his royal status. He rides a piebald (or skewbald) horse that seems perfectly trained for the young Louis to concentrate on his hunting sport. Even with a long rein on the curb bit the horse keeps its neck arched. The harness and trappings are heavily decorated. The red breast-band and crupper are provided with tassels and stones. The same tassels have been fixed to the bridle. Even the richly processed reins are decorated with tassels and loops. The saddle and saddle cloth are in the same style. The high plume on the horse’s head corresponds with the plume on Louis’s hat. The striking colors of the horse go well with the colors of the harness and the dress of the rider. We may think that decorating the horse’s harness is an exclusive royal luxury, but this human tendency has always existed in all layers of the population as far as the means would allow. In our present time we see children and adults who decorate their horses with pink brow-bands provided with stones combined with pink bandages and hold a pink whip.

 

 

 

Two knights in a joust

by Eric Claus, 1964

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bronze, c. 160 cm high, Grote Markt (Lepelstraat), Haarlem

This sculpture was placed on the location where in the Middle Ages the tournaments were held in Haarlem. At that time the location was called ’t Sant. A tournament was an event where a number of different games and festivities took place, sometimes a week long. The fight between two individual knights with long lances was one of the games, called ‘joust’. The participants were bound to rules and chivalry was supposed to be exercised. Only men with the status of a knight could participate and victory in a joust greatly enhanced the status of a knight. The sculptor Eric Claus is fascinated by the fighting knight and he made not only this work in Haarlem but also several others: in Gouda (courtyard of Museum Gouda, 1965), Hilversum (Vaartweg 163, 1968), Muiden (Muiderslot 1984) and Heino (Kasteel Het Nijenhuis, 1980). In all these sculptures the dynamics of speed, power and balance are expressed. This is true for the riders but even more for the horses. The artist once remarked that over time he made the lances steadily shorter as a remedy to aggression. These sculptures also are an indication that in modern art the horse has not lost its important position.

Amazones, by Eugène Robert Pougheon, c. 1930

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gouache over pencil on board, 28,2 x 28 cm, Christie, Sale 2854, lot 85, New York, 14 June 2014

In the summer of 2018, hot all over Europe, this picture by the French ‘art deco’ artist Pougheon will fit in the imagination of many people. These Amazones enjoy life on the beach together with their impressive grey horse. Geese fly above the sea.  On the background two other Amazones ride through the water on their white horses. These two riders in the sea were the subject of an oil painting the artist later made in 1934. That painting was Picture of the month July 2015 on the website The Horse in Art    https://www.thehorseinart.nl/?p=1430

 

 

 

Two contrasting riders:

Cavalry soldier, fully packed, by

Dirk Langendijk, 1785

Gentleman rider on the beach, by

Max Liebermann, 1910

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Dirk Langendijk, ink and watercolor on paper, 17,7 x 19,7 cm, signed and dated lower right, AAG Auctions. Amsterdam, 7 May 2012                                               Max Liebermann, oil on canvas, ca. 45 x 55 cm, signed and dated lower right, Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel

 

The difference between the two horsemen could not be greater. The cavalry man and his horse loaded with all he needs for his bivouac and his weapons. We can see the tent poles and herrings, a blanket, a haversack, a kettle, a tricorn hat, a long rope, a rifle and a pistol holster. He is an example of the well-prepared soldier in control of the well-trained horse, trotting to his destination. The gentleman riding on the beach shows he has no duties, hardly a destination and is just enjoying a good time with a very relaxed horse. The horse stands still even with the approaching waves and the loose reins. Both horse and rider are relaxed. Two horses and two riders with a different role in life.

Cosa-Rara, horse of King Ludwig II of Bavaria, by Wilhelm Pfeiffer, 1869

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oil on canvas, 54,8 x 71,9 cm, signed lower right, Marstallmuseum Schloss Nymphenburg, Munich, inv. W35 (WAF)

The horse is eating from the table on the terrace of Ludwig’s hunting lodge Königshaus at Linderhof, near Munich. He tumbled a glass and a vase with flowers and quietly eats an apple from a dish. Between 1867 and 1880 Wilhelm Pfeiffer made 26 portraits of riding horses of King Ludwig, all with a different topographical background in the Munich area. This portrait shows a special situation: the horse has left its field, entered the garden and found something to its liking on the terrace. Tradition says that Ludwig himself had Cosa-Rara led to the table to watch its behavior. All 25 other horse portraits show regular posing situations, but for this horse the painter used the special situation which had really happened. Most of the riding horses of Ludwig II were English thoroughbreds.