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Category Archives: Picture of the Month

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




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.


Plaster figure of a horse, by Vincent van Gogh, after a plaster statuette by Théodore Géricault

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oil painting on cardboard, 33,5 x 41 cm, 1886,Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, inv. F 216c

plaster statuette, 24,7 x 26,5 x 9,5 cm, 1870-1880 (original ca. 1810), Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Vincent van Gogh made this painting as an excercise in painting the horse, while he was studying at Fernand Cormon’s workshop in Paris. He spent three months there in the spring of 1886. The statuette by Théodore Géricault was often used as a teaching model in workshops of painters because of the anatomy and the movement of the horse. This example makes clear how important the correct rendering of the horse was for artists and it indicates the mastership of Théodore Géricault on this subject.

Donkey, beast of burden, by Maria Koijck, 2016

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Scrap metal, life size, in the exhibition ‘Op Poten’, Beeldenpark de Havixhorst, De Schiphorst, Netherlands, 2016

This animal artist (‘animalier’) uses waste material to create animals. This donkey clearly shows all characteristics of the donkey: thin tail, short legs,  trangular head, high hoofs and large ears. With pieces of scrap metal the artist is able to shape all necessary forms and to give the animal its own soul. In this way she proves her artistic genius. She calls her sculptures ‘spatial design’. Maria Koijck also distinguishes herself by large sculptures made of plastic waste in open spaces by which the public is confronted with familiar animals in an unusual way. She calls this work ‘community art’.

The White Horse, by Chris ten Bruggen Kate, 1965

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c. 85 x 100 cm, signed lower right, oil on cloth, Noord-Veluws Museum, Nunspeet

Chris ten Bruggen Kate (1920-2003) was born in Utrecht and worked all his life as a painter in Nunspeet and Zwolle, The Netherlands. He concentrated on local landscapes and his style evolved over time into ‘magical realism’. He also painted horses and especially white horses. His horses are usually part of the landscape, but here the artist has given all attention to the elegant lines and delicate coat of the white horse. The posture of the animal is designed to be graceful but still natural. This is a horse the artist may have seen in a dream. Once he did mention a black horse in the snow he had seen in a dream. This white horse is likely to be an Arabian thoroughbred, which type is the favorite of many painters, also in modern art.

Giuseppe Garibaldi and Vitorio Emanuele II shake hands on horseback: the historical agreement between nationalists

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‘ The encounter of Teano on 26 October 1860 ‘, lifesize bronze  group by Oreste Calzolari in Fiesole, inaugurated on 17 June 1906 (photographs by Kirsten Bras-Ykema)

In the present world where disagreements between countries and regions dominate, where tensions are being cultivated, it may be refreshing to pay attention to this magnificent monument. In a complicated strategy for the unification of Italy, two patriots decided to drop disagreements and to join forces in the interest of their common country. The sculptor used the position of the horses coming from two different directions to maximal theatrical effect. The riders hold out their hands to each other and so bridge the distance between them and the horses. Everything in this encounter has symbolic significance which in this way is strongly emphasized and recorded for posterity. The gestures of Garibaldi and Vitorio Emanuele will also be influenced by some chivalry which historically belongs to the basis of horse riding. This attitude seems somewhat forgotten but is an important peace making tool. In summary, we see a beautiful equestrian monument with much value for the present time.



Adoration by the Magi, by Jan Brueghel (I), 1600-1619, with a striking grey horse and a sitting dog


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oil on copper, 20,7 x32 cm, Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp

This Nativity scene lacks the traditional donkey and ox but in stead the artist has chosen to give a role to the horses of the three Wise Men from the East. On the right the grey horse with the blue saddle attracts attention. Behind this one the two other horses are visible. On the left a grey horse pushes its head against a man in a blue jacket. Of course the main subject is Maria showing her Child Jezus to the Magi and the many other spectators. Yet the grey horse is an important part of the painting and the artist rendered with care the saddle, the breast plate, the crupper, the bridle and the stirrup leathers, which all are made of the same gold-colored material. The blue saddle with high pommel and cantle could well represent a saddle from the Near East. The horse does not have Oriental looks and may be the portrait of a horse he knew in his own environment. The artist was, however, not an expert in painting horses. The pasterns of the four legs are far too much bent through. Between the grooms of the Magi also a dog is sitting, which shows the type of the bloodhound and could be the portrait of familiar dog.