Horsemen on Rearing Horses Part 3: Indo-European Nation-States In Circa 17th-19th Centuries
Table Of Contents
By the end of European wars of religion, concluded in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia, European states have developed a much stronger sense of national identity. At the same time, the Persian empire has shrunk to the size comparable with the modern borders of Iran. Thus, we need to look at horsemen created at that time on a state-by-state basis.
Islamic And Indian Horsemen, 12th – 19th centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Persian Manuscript Illustrations, 14th – 18th centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
While the printing was becoming widespread in Europe, in Persia (present-time Iran) the books and their illustrations were still made by hand. Their iconography, however, is very comparable to some paintings that will be created in Europe in the 16th century.
A Persian miniature is a small Persian painting on paper, whether a book illustration or a separate work of art intended to be kept in an album of such works called a muraqqa. Persian manuscripts were illustrated from the 3rd century AD, but the greatest period of the Persian miniature began when Persia was ruled by Mongols. The Mongol invasion of 1219 onwards has resulted in Persia becoming a branch of the Mongol Empire. The new court had a galvanising effect on book painting, importing many Chinese works and probably artists, with their long-established tradition of narrative painting.
Persian art under Islam had never completely forbidden the human figure, and in the miniature tradition the depiction of figures, often in large numbers, is central. This was partly because the miniature is a private form, kept in a book or album and only shown to those the owner chooses. Animals, especially the horses that very often appear, are mostly shown sideways on; even the love-stories that constitute much of the classic material illustrated are conducted largely in the saddle, as far as the prince-protagonist is concerned. Naturally, many of the depictions of the horsemen on rearing horses produced within the Persian culture at that time were the illustrations of Shahnameh.
Persian Textiles↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Persian Ceramics↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Rearing Horses of Indian Subcontinent, 12th – 19th centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Hero Stones, 12th – 16th centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
A hero stone is a memorial commemorating the honorable death of a hero in battle. Erected between cr. 5th-18th centuries, hero stones are found all over India. According to the MAP Academy, hero stones serve as a crucial part of a spectrum of art historical material related to the performance and commemoration of military activity. They could be compared to funeral stelae, sarcophagi and victory commemoration monuments of Persia and antique world cultures.
A Mural, 17th century↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
The mural presented in this section is part of the Battle of Bhuchar Mori memorial shrine. This battle was fought in 1591 and resulted in the victory of Mughols. The style of the mural is supposed to be traditional, but, unfortunately, I could not find any comparable memorials in India. Curiously, some Italian frescoes look very similar.
Cronicles Illustrations, 16th – 19th centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Mughal painting is a particular style of South Asian, particularly Indian, painting. It emerged from the Persian miniature painting and developed in the court of the Mughal Empire (1526 – 1857). The Mughal emperors were Muslims and they are credited with consolidating Islam in South Asia, and spreading Muslim (and particularly Persian) arts and culture as well as the faith.
Early Mughal illustrations emulate the Persian illustrations of Shahnameh. The major difference is that they illustrate the chronicles of reign of recent and contemporary Mughal emperors.
- Baburnama is the memoirs of Ẓahīr-ud-Dīn Muhammad Babur (1483–1530), founder of the Mughal Empire and a great-great-great-grandson of Timur.
- Akbarnama is the official chronicle of the reign of Akbar, the third Mughal Emperor (r. 1556–1605), commissioned by Akbar himself and written by his court historian and biographer, Abu'l-Fazl ibn Mubarak.
- Padshahnama (Chronicle of the Emperor Shah Jahan) is a group of works written as the official history of the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Unillustrated texts are known as Shahjahannama, with Padshahnama used for the illustrated manuscript versions. Mirza Shihab-ud-Din Muhammad Khurram (1592 – 1666), also known as Shah Jahan I (in Persian, this means ’King of the World’), was the 5th emperor of the Mughal Empire, reigning 1628 – 58. Under his emperorship, the Mughals reached the peak of their architectural achievements and cultural glory.
Religious Non-Islamic Texts Illustrations, 16th – 19th centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
The other major cluster of works are the illustrations to Indian epic poetry and religios texts
Indian Islamic Illustrations↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Disperced Book Illustrations, ?↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
A friend of a friend is making his living by extracting the valuable illustrations from old books and selling them as stand-alone images. It appears that his business is not the invention of the 21st century; something similar was practiced on Indian subcontinent a few centuries ago.
Cliché Mughal Equestrian Portraits↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
With time, Indian artists develop their own styles and iconographies. A new format, single works designed to be kept in albums (muraqqa), has emerged. Mughal painting was taking a much greater interest in realistic portraiture than typical Persian miniatures. This could be attributed to European influence, as we will shortly observe.
… Adopted By Other Indian Kingdoms↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
While other kingdoms of Indian subcontinent had different religions, and were often at war with Mughal empire, they have enthusiastically adopted the format of the equestrian portrait.
This format was used not only for the rulers, but also for the government officials and religious leaders. Perhaps the most notable of them is the portrait of Ikhlas Khan, a descendant of slaves from Abyssinia who became the prime minister, and de-factor regent, of the Sultanate of Bijapur, one of Deccan sultanates, in 17th century. This must be one of the first ones, if not the first one, stately portrait of a black person, and a slave descendant, on a rearing horse.
Baz Bahadur and Rupmati↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Polo↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Hunting↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Indian rulers liked being depicted as hunters. Based on the imaged below, were usually hunting with a lance, and used dogs and/or a bird of pray, thus following a long-established tradition.
Nata Raga↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
According to the Brooklyn museum research, a new genre of painting developed that attempted to capture in imagery the moods of famous passages of classical Indian music was established in the 15th or 16th century. The music, known as ragas or raginis, inspired artists to create little scenarios—happy or sad, fierce or quiet, taking place in the daytime or nighttime, the summer or winter—that were illustrated over and over again.
The Nata musical theme is always depicted with warriors fighting. According to the University of Michingan Museum of Art, paintings of the Nata ragini often depict a battle scene in which the heroine defeats Viraha, who personifies the separation of lovers. Lady Nata is one of the wives of Bhairava raga.
Riders on Composite Horses↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
The technique of composite animal painting reached Mughal India through Persian tradition. Interestingly, all three Persian images of a horseman on a rearing horse seem to be illustrating the same book of poems Hadiqat al Haqiqa, lit. ’The Garden of Truth and The Path to Trek’ is an early Sufi book of poetry written in the Persian language, composed by Sanai in 1130-31. Moreover, the iconography of these three images is almost identical. However, they are ouf of scope of this work because the horse is not rearing!
According to the Metropolitan museum research, while composite animals are known from earlier periods of Persian art, they gained in popularity toward the end of the sixteenth century. The meaning of such images is open to interpretation, but many scholars believe them to have mystical significance—likely referring to the unity of all creatures within God. According to Saffron art, the other possibility is the representation of the earth spirits, perhaps of Sufi inspiration. The images of demons (divs), dervishes, embracing couples, animals, fish, dragons, and more, can be embedded into the composite animal shape.
It appears that there are two types of composite horses in Indian subcontitent art. One is made of 5 women. It’s commonly riden by Hindu deities, mostly by Rati, the goddess of love and lust, but also by Krishna, the supreme god, and Durga, the mother goddess. The first image, identified as a princess, could potentially be an image of a goddess, and the composite tiger could actually be a horse, because its “tail” is very similar to the tails of other images in this gallery.
The other type is characterised by horses composed of many different creatures. It’s often referred to as Peri, a winged spirit reknowned for its beauty. While earlier peris are indeed very beautiful and feminine (addition of a compsite dog running next to the composite horse is a very touching detail), we can see that its image has transformed with time: it loses its wings, its feminine beauty was replaced by an intimidating image of a warrior, she holds one or two smakes and her horse’s reins are made of snakes.
Company Style, 18th And Early 19th Century↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Company style, also known as Company painting is a term for a hybrid Indo-European style of paintings made in India by Indian artists, many of whom worked for European patrons in the East India Company or other foreign Companies in the 18th and 19th centuries. For obvious reasons, these images were not glorifying Indian military achievements, but we can find a large number of Hindu deities riding white horses
Manuscript Illustrations Of Ottoman Empire, 16th century↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
The Ottoman Empire (1299 – 1923) controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople. Its defeat in World War I resulted in its partitioning and the loss of its Middle Eastern territories, which were divided between the United Kingdom and France. The successful Turkish War of Independence led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk against the occupying Allies led to the emergence of the Republic of Turkey in the Anatolian heartland of the Ottoman monarchy.
Ottoman miniature was a Turkish art form in the Ottoman Empire, which can be linked to the Persian miniature tradition, as well as strong Chinese artistic influences. The golden age of the Ottoman miniature was the second half of the 16th century, this is when we see quite a few illustrations featuring the rearing horsemen. The later artists were preferring calmer, more static subjects.
The House of Savoy, 17 to 19 century↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
The Duchy of Savoy has disappeared from the European map, but it used to be one of the greatest European powers. The House of Savoy is one of the oldest royal families in the world (it was founded in 1003). Initially, it was a small county in Savoy (a region between Italy and France). It gradually expanded through annexation of the neighbouring territories, and in 1416 it became a duchy. For 7 years, from 1713 to 1720, it included Sicily. In 1720 the Duke of Savoy was forced to exchange his throne in Sicily for that of the less important Kingdom of Sardinia. Ironically, it was Sardinia that would later unify Italy in the nineteenth century, and the junior branch of the house of Savoy was ruling the Kingdom of Italy since from creation in 1861 till 1946 when Italy became a republic.
Depictions of Dukes and A Duchess of Savoy on rearing horses↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Several Savoy rulers have been portrayed on rearing horses…
Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663 – 1736)↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
The most portrayed member of Savoy house was not a ruler. Prince Eugene of Savoy was born in Paris. The great-grandson of Charles Emmanuel I grew up around the French court of King Louis XIV. Because of a scandal involving his mother, he was rejected for service in the French army. Eugene moved to Austria and transferred his loyalty to the Habsburg Monarchy, and became a general of the Imperial Army and statesman of the Holy Roman Empire and the Archduchy of Austria and one of the most successful military commanders in modern European history.
Spain and its colonies: Royalty And Saint James, 15th-21st Centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Spanish Painters, 17th-19th Centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Diego Velázquez (1599 – 1660)↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
The most significant and famous equestrian Spanish portraits were made by Diego Velázquez. He seems to have adopted the iconography developed by Peter Paul Rubens.
Francisco Goya (1746 – 1828)↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
These portraits are very different from joyful and luminous (the reproduction does not do this painting justice) “Hunting Party” executed by Goya earlier in his career.
Saint James the Moor-slayer, a.k.a. Santiago Matamoros, 15th-21st centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Who is Saint James, a.k.a. Santiago?↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
James the Great was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, and is the patron saint of Spaniards. According to legend, his remains are held in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. (The name Santiago is the local evolution of Vulgar Latin Sanctu Iacobu, “Saint James”, with San Diego also being a derivative of Santiago.)
Saint James the Moor-slayer (Spanish: Santiago Matamoros) is the name given to the representation (painting, sculpture, etc.) of the apostle James as a legendary, miraculous figure who appeared at the also legendary Battle of Clavijo, helping the Christians conquer the Muslim Moors. The Battle of Clavijo is a mythical battle that, apparently, never took place, but was a subject of many legends. Aspects of the historical Battle of Monte Laturce (859) were incorporated into this legend.
Unlike the courtly paintings, we have seen before, the paintings that resulted from the cult of Saint James were sincere and appealing to all layers of the society. The quality of these works vary a lot, they are often anonymous. Their quantity is quite astonishing: what you see below is only a small part of a very large body of works devoted to Saint James the Moor-slayer.
Santiago Matamoros in Spain, 15th – 20th centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Santiago Matamoros In Paintings↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Even though there were paintings of Santiago Matamoros before the 17th century and outside Spain, it was in Spain and in the 17th century that this saint became an object of cult.
Santiago Matamoros In Sculptures And Reliefs↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
There are many statues of Santiago Matamoros in Spanish churches, especially in Castile and León and Galicia. The most famous one is located in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Galicia; this cathedral is the reputed Santiago’s burial place.
In addition, several sculptures and relieves of Santiago Matamoros adorn facades of public buildings in Spain.
Santiago in Americas: Matamoros, Mataindios and Mataespañoles, 17th – 21st centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Santiago in Americas↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Cuzco School↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Many works in this section were done by the artists belonging to Cusco School (sometimes spelt as “Cuzco School”). This was a Roman Catholic artistic tradition based in Cusco, Peru (the former capital of the Inca Empire) during the Colonial period, in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. It was not limited to Cusco only, but spread to other cities in the Andes, as well as to present-day Ecuador and Bolivia. Specific characteristics of Cuzco school are: the neglect of the perspective, the fragmentation of the space in several concurrent scenes, the preference for intense colours typical of the aesthetics of those countries, the presence of Andean flora and fauna, and the introduction of characters dressed in the manner indigenous, such as caciques and Inca warriors. This school originated from the work of several Indian and mestizo painters, who transmitted their particular vision of the world through a simple technique, sometimes rough and naive, that adapted the western plastic language. Like Ionian Greek artists when Ionia was invaded by Persians, Peruvian artists were creating the art objects that were glorifying their invadors, but retained some key stylistic features of their native culture.
Santiago Matamoros↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Santiago Mataindios (The Slayer Of Indians)↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
There were a few indigenous peoples who saw in the Spanish some ideal allies to fight against other indigenous peoples who were their traditional enemies and had them subdued. Thus, some native Americans have voluntarily adopted the cult of Santiago Mataindios.
Santiago mataespañoles The Protector Of Indians↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
An example of this very rare iconography is found in this small silver sculpture, also originally from Cuzco, which is preserved in the Pilgrimage Museum of Santiago de Compostela. It is dated in the second third of the nineteenth century and shows the Saint the Peruvians protecting against Spanish colonizers. Recently, Peruvian artists have used Santiago’s iconography during the demonstration calling to increase the budget of the culture sector, presumably as the protector of Peruvian liberal arts!
Flemish Artists, 17th century: Flamboyant Baroque↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
What is “Flemish”?↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Horsemen’s Portraits By Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640) And Anthony van Dyck (1599 – 1641)↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Flemish painting of 17th century was dominated by two artists: Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck. Both have painted male equestrian portraits featuring rearing horses and have their versions of Saint George. They both use large brushstrokes, which makes their paintings very dynamic.
It is interesting to observe that, despite many differences, all gentlemen on Rubens’s and van Dyck’s horsemen portraits wear the same costume (an armour with a red scarf) and they all hold a baton.
Horsemen’s Portraits By Gonzales Coques (1614 – 1684)↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Fashions change with time. Equestrian portraits by Gonzales Coques, a minor Flemish painter of the 17th century, nicknamed de kleine van Dyck (the little van Dyck), allow to trace the evolution of the iconography of a horseman on a rearing horse in the 17th century very clearly. It starts off with traditional iconography, as used by Rubens: armour, red sash and a baton. Next, the red sash becomes blue. Then, the armour is replaced by a regular contemporary costume, and the baton transforms into a whip. Finally, the ladies appear; this is no longer a war hero portrait, but a courtly scene!
Another interesting detail that unites these paintings is that these oil paintings are not on wood or canvas, but on copper, which is unusual.
Rubens’s Huntsmen↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
There was another series of the horsemen on rearing horses, also by Peter Paul Rubens. These horsemen were depicted in the hunting scenes. It is possible that the dynamic iconography of these paintings was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's 'The Battle of Anghiari', and that it was referencing the antique depictions of the lion hunt.
Battle Scenes (Flemish And Italian Schools)↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
It was a condition of membership to have visited Rome; it appears to have been strictly enforced. This illustrates the importance of Italian art for Flemish artists and explains some similarities of composition, technique and colour palette. The cultural exchange was facilitated by the fact that both the Southern Netherlands and Italy belonged to the same country, the Spanish empire.
Many of Flemish horsemen’s portraits and battle scenes relate to the battles where the Catholics have crashed the Protestants. Baroque style, which was nurtured by the Roman Catholic Church as, essentially, a tool of propaganda against Protestantism, was very fitting to glorify the victory in this battle.
Dutch Republic, 17th century↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
After mentioning the Spanish Netherlands, we should mention the Dutch Republic, founded in 1581 by several Dutch provinces — fully seceded from Spanish rule in 1648 — that existed until the Batavian Revolution of 1795.
There were very few horsemen on the rearing horses created in the Dutch republic after 1648. This is expected; the Dutchmen were favouring the still life, genre and urban portraits to differentiate their art from the Catholic art. The source of their prosperity was trade and science, not war.
France: Bourbons, Napoleon and Aristocracy, 17th-19th centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Henry IV (1553 – 1610)↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Henry IV of France, the first monarch of France from the House of Bourbon, was not the first French royal horseman on a rearing horse (Charles IX of France had been portrayed on a rearing horse), but also the first one whose images followed the standard armour-and-baton iconography.
Louis XIII (1601 – 1643)↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Portraits of Louis XIII↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Few monarchs were as fond of being portraited on a rearing horse as Louis XIII and Louis XIV. This imagery well suited the apotheosis of absolute monarchy which was reached during their reign.
Louis XIII of France was depicted wearing either armour or a court costume; it seems that the only element of his appearance that would relate to antiquity is a laurel wreath. His most significant portraits were painted by Claude Deruet.
Other Horsemen Of Claude Deruet↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Studying other Claude Deruet‘s paintings with the horsemen on rearing horses allows to see what subjects were popular at the time: mostly courtly and antique subjects.
It appears that having a portrait on a hearing horse became a status symbol. Those who could not afford the portrait made by the famous master would order a cheaper lookalike version – I believe we see an example of this in the portrait done by Claude Deruet‘s studio.
Louis XIV (1638 – 1715)↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Louis XIV of France was even more fond of being depicted on a rearing horse.
Portraits of Louis XIV↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Many portraits of Louis XIV on a rearing horse were created during his reign, you can see a small selection here. Like many other aspects of his reign, these portraits reinforce his image of an infallible absolute monarch in the most visually exuberant way.
Portraits of The Ladies of Louis XIV’s Court↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Louis XIV was known for his fondness of glamorous aristocratic ladies. The painters’ choices were in line with the preferences of the king. The most famous ladies’ portraits constitute a series of 6 paintings that were painted by Joseph Parrocel for Louis-Marie-Victor d'Aumont in the 1670s. The paintings were given as a gift to or bought by the Swedish ambassador Count Nils Bielke during his stay in Paris 1679-82. The series was later transferred to Skokloster Castle, where they are now exhibited.
Sculptural Depictions Of Louis XIV↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
There were attempts to have a sculptural depiction of Louis XIV on a rearing horse. There exist some preparatory drawings made by Charles Le Brun and a bronze model by Le Brun’s protégé François Girardon, which, possibly, resulted in a statue that was at Place Vendôme in Paris between 1692 and 1699.
However, Gian Lorenzo Bernini‘s creation seems to be the only large-scale statue of Louis XIV on a rearing horse created in the 17th century. Louis XIV wanted Bernini to create a freestanding marble statue similar to The Vision of Constantine. For the technical reasons, a freestanding marble statue could not have only two supporting points; so the artist has chosen to support the horse’s belly, too. The statue greatly displeased Louis XIV and was banished to the farthest corner of Versailles park.
Observe that both Girardon’s and Bernini’s statues feature the outstretched towards the back arm. This looks somewhat unnatural but is useful to balance the statue. We have seen it only once before, on Leonardo’s drawing. It would be interesting to know if Louis XIV’s sculptors have come up with the same idea independently or not.
I have found three more bronze figurines of Louis XIV on a rearing horse. Two made by Martin Desjardins were models for a public monument in Aix-en-Provence, but, mostly because of financial difficulties, it was never completed. The other one, by Thomas Gobert, was probably a model for the public monument in the garden of Rueil commissioned by Armand-Jean de Vignerot du Plessis, Duke of Richelieu, in 1685; again, it appears to not to be completed. There is also a relief depicting the king on a rearing horse made by Martin Desjardins (the statue was decorating the Place des Victoires statue of Louis XIV that was destroyed during the French Revolution).
Other works by Charles Le Brun (1619 – 1690)↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Charles Le Brun was the leading artist at the court of Louis XIV, who declared him “the greatest French artist of all time”. As we can see that, other than the portrayals of the king, he was using the horsemen to depict the battles of antiquity, such as the battles of Alexander the Great and the Battle. Next, there are three scenes from Franco-Dutch War (1672 – 1678) won by France. Lastly, there is a depiction of The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple painted in accordance with the icongraphy defined by Raphael.
Louis XV (1710 – 1774), Louis XVI (1754 – 1793) And Their Wives↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Presumably, Frenchmen have grown weary of the image of a rider on a rearing horse, so we do not see much of it during Louis XV reign: below is one engraving that depicts Louis XV and one painting, which shows his wife Marie Leszczyńska. Then we have two paintings of Marie Antoinette on a rearing horse, and only one painting of her husband, Louis XVI, which was made after the revolution (observe the Tricolor cockade) and, unlike the similar portraits of his ancestors, the soon to be decapitated king does not look confident at all.
Horsemen’s Portraits At The Time of Napoleon I (1769 – 1821)↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
The ascension of Napoleon has revived the image of the horseman on the rearing horse. Further similar portraits have appeared; their subjects are no longer royalties, but the aristocratic men who wish to boast of their horsemanship skills.
Louis XIV On A Rearing Horse At The Place De Victoires, 1816–1828↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
This appears to be the last public statue where the horseman is dressed à l’antique and has a baton.
Given Louis XIV fondness of being represented on a rearing horse, one could not find a better person to conclude the sub-series of antique-themed horsemen.
Galerie des Batailles, Palace of Versailles, 1830s↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Its creation was the idea of Louis-Philippe I, who opened in in 1837.
Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863): Huntsmen And Warriors↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Even without checking his biography, one can clearly see that Delacroix was very much inspired by Peter Paul Rubens. The depictions of the hunt are certainly very similar in their dynamics, caught in the midst of the action. It is possible that Peter Paul Rubens was inspired by Leonardo’s The Battle of Anghiari, which Rubens copied. Their representations of Saint George are very different, however, later images of Rubens’s horsemen have a similar composition. In addition, their brushwork and colour palettes are quite similar.
Holy Roman Empire and Germany, 15th-20th Centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Drinking Horns, 15th-16th Centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
The first drinking vessels with horsemen were in the shape of horns. Most of those I have found were linked to Holy Roman Empire.
Drinking Games And Table Centrepieces, 17th Centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Most were produced in Augsburg, one of Free Imperial Cities of Holy Roman Empire.
Some featured mechanisms that allow them to move on the table! You can see a similar mechanism in action below.Diana and Stag Automaton:
Saxony: Gold and Porcelain, 18th – 19th Centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Two German lands where the image of a horseman on a rearing horse was particularly popular were Saxony and Bavaria.
Golden Horsemen of Dresden↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Portraits Of Electors of Saxony↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
There were conventional portraits, too.
porcelain horsemen↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Bavaria, 18th Century: Possible Influence of France And Spain↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
There were quite a few depictions of horsemen on the rearing horses in Bavaria. The most depicted sovereign was Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria (1662-1726, he was also Kurfürst of the Holy Roman Empire, the last governor of the Spanish Netherlands and duke of Luxembourg). Given his political situation, we can expect that the elector’s choice of self-representation was influenced by Spain and France.
Historistm in the late 19th – early 20th century: Drinking Vessels↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
The Unification of Germany into a German Empire in 1871 has prompted interest in the historical heritage in general and high-quality replicas of the historical silver objects depicting horsemen on rearing horses in particular.
Production centres were mostly in Hanau (this centre specialised in historical replicas, see Hanau Silver) and Berlin.
Austria, 17th to 19th century: Little Known Gems↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
It is interesting to see how each country was finding its unique way to interpret the theme of a horseman on a rearing horse. In the case of Austria, the feeling that I am getting when I look at their versions is lightness, giving the viewer the impression of weightlessness of the objects.
Caspar Gras, 1585 – 1674↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
The First Large Statue With Two Support Points↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Unfortunately, although completed, the statue was never installed and remained in storage. It was only installed as a part of Fountain of Leopold 1892 or 1893 – this explains why it did not find the deserved place in the history of sculpture.
After that, Caspar Gras created the statue of Pegasus. It was made of copper (not of bronze), and was created to decorate a well in Salzburg. After that, it was relocated to the garden that surrounds Mirabell Palace, still in Salzburg. Pegasus has only two support points, just as the monument to Leopold V. It does not carry a rider, but, presumably, his large wings were as much a technological challenge as creating an equestrian statue with a rider.
Statuettes Of Emperors And Archdukes↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Later on, Caspar Gras has created a series of very similar statuettes of Austrian rulers, thus combining his artistic and economic acumen. In addition, he has supplied two replacement heads for these statuettes. Four of these statuettes (and both replacement heads) are now on display in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, one in Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and a few have emerged at auctions.
Bone Statuettes And Portraits↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
In addition, there are several bone statuettes made by Matthias Steinl, as well a portrait of Franz Joseph I of Austria, and one of his wife Empress Elisabeth of Austria, also known as Sisi.
England and Great Britain, 12th-20th centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
After king Edward III has chosen Saint George as the Parton Saint of England, and dedicated the Order of the Garter established in 1348 is to his image and arms, one could expect the proliferation of the horsemen on the rearing horses.
However, this is where it stopped. Even though we will see a lot of horsemen on the rearing horses related to the Order of the Garter and seals, including royal seals – the imagery aimed at a very limited audience – there won’t be much horsemen on the rearing horses in public art.
Insignia of the Order of the Garter, 17th – 19th Centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
The insignia of the Order of the Garter includes the Greater George and the Lesser George, which are, respectively, a figurine and a badge depicting Saint George on a rearing horse slaying the dragon. We can also find Saint George image on the Order of the Garter memorabilia.
great seals of the Realm, 12th – 19th Centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Every English, then British monarch, except Empress Matilda in the 12th century, has at least one great seals of the Realm where he (or she) is depicted on horseback. Some of their horses are rearing, alluding either to hunt or to war. A very complete list of the great seals of the Realm can be found on Mernick website; some relevant highlights are below. Many medieval monarchs around Europe were using similar seals.
Great seals were used not only by English/British monarchs but also by English noblemen, Scottish kings, English noblemen wanting to become Scottish kings and some counties as well. The Queen Victoria‘s seal of County Palatine of Lancaster (today, primarily Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside) seems to be the only seal that features a woman on a rearing horse. It is possible that the dragon under the horse of Robert Fitzwalter, one the barons who forced king John Lackland to sign Magna Carta, alludes to Saint George‘s dragon.
Saint George on a rearing horse in public art, 14th – 20th Centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Public art representations of Saint George on a rearing horse are virtually nonexistent: everything I could find is below.
Kings And Aristocrats on rearing horses, 14th – 19th Centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Portraits before the Glorious Revolution of 1688↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Paintings and drawings showing kings and aristocrats on rearing horses are much rarer than on a continent. In the beginning, before the Glorious Revolution of 1688, we see the portraits of prominent aristocrats but no royal portraits.
Portraits of William III and George I by Godfrey Kneller and Jan Wyck↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Perhaps the only painter who fully complied with the horseman on a rearing horse iconography was Sir Godfrey Kneller with the depiction of George I of Great Britain. George I and his second cousin William III of England (frequently portrayed by Jan Wyck) were the only two monarchs to be frequently depicted on a rearing horse. Both these monarchs were born on the continent, which explains their preferences. There are very few small bronzes of the royalties and they appear relatively late.
Portraits in 1760s – 1850s↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Most famous British equine painter must be George Stubbs; his depiction of Whistlejacket cannot be missed when you visit the National Gallery. The only noteworthy public statue of a horseman on a rearing horse that I am aware of is the statue of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.
Clearly, the image of a horseman on a rearing horse did not enjoy as high status in Great Britain as it did on the continent. It was not used for the public statues of the monarchs. It was rarely used for the portraits and those portraits are lesser British art collections or abroad. This iconography was quickly adopted for the representation of the people of relatively low social standing.
Figurines Depicting horsemen on rearing horses↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Small bronzes of the horsemen on rearing horses have appeared quite early, but the subjects were mostly mythological and biblical. Those I have found are all made by Francesco Fanelli, a follower of Giambologna, who lived in London from 1610.
Perhaps it was a slavish copy done by a mediocre craftsman. But, for me, this British submission looks more like a parody.
Sweden, 17th-18th centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Most of the history of Swedish horsemen on the rearing horses spans between two wars. It started with the Thirty Years' War (1618-48), and, more specifically, the Battle of Breitenfeld (1631), where the army led by Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden have triumphed over Catholic enemies. We see quite a few portraits of Swedish sovereigns on rearing horses. Not all these portraits are of highest artistic standards (the faces are not always very expressive, and the anatomical proportions are not always correct). Some appear a bit dated: there are portraits painted on wooden panels whereas in the rest Europe most paintings were done on canvas since 16 century. The Swedish agents have purchased the plaster casts of Louis XIV statue with the intention to convert it to Karl XII statue but nothing that came out of it.
The Great Northern War (1700-21), and, more specifically, the Battle of Poltava (1709), where Swedes led by Karl XII were crushed by Russian army led by Peter the Great, has put an end to the imperial ambitions of Sweden. It never added new territory after the Battle of Poltava, and shortly thereafter lost more possessions. The image of the triumphant horseman on a rearing horse would have been out of place.
Emblematically, the rearing horse that appears after the reign of Karl XII is a rough plaster model for the statue of Adolf Frederick, King of Sweden, by Jacques-Philippe Bouchardon that seems to have never been completed and that, for a long time, was assumed to be the statue of Louis XV of France.
The image reemerges when Karl XIV Johan (born Jean Bernadotte, an ex-Marshal of France and a brother-in-law of Napoleon’s brother) was elected as an heir presumptive to the Swedish throne.
Russia, 13th century – 1917↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Russian State Symbols And Coins↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Saint George was the patron saint of many Russian grand princes and tzars since the 11th century. In parallel, an image of a horseman began to appear on the seals of Russian great princes. The personality of the horseman was vague, and it sometimes had the facial features similar to Russian sovereign in power.
Alexander Nevsky in early 13th century had a rearing horseman on his seal. Ivan III used the triumphant horseman as a state emblem of Russia on his seal from 1479. In 1497, it was replaced with the double-headed eagle, popularly interpreted as a symbol of Ivan’s marriage into the last ruling dynasty of the East Roman Empire, thus illustrating his claim to the Byzantine political and cultural heritage.
Both emblems had been used on state seals alternatively until 1562, when the first Russian tsar, Ivan IV the Terrible, combined them by placing a heraldic shield with the triumphant horseman to the chest of the double-headed eagle. This layout has become known as the coat of arms of the Russian Empire.
It was Peter the Great who was the first to identify the heraldic horseman as St. George, thus decoupling it from the representation of Russian monarchs. The first detailed description of the heraldic emblem of Moscow, which named the horseman as St. George, appeared in 1730, during Anna of Russia‘s reign. With several minor modifications, this emblem was officially confirmed in 1781, during Catherine II‘s reign.
Russian Royal Horsemen↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Peter The Great, 1672 – 1725↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Essentially, the history of secular Russian horsemen on the rearing horses starts where the history of Swedish horsemen on the rearing horses stops. Peter the Great has forcibly modernised and westernised Russia. His most popular image is the warrior on a rearing horse and is often placed on Poltava battlefield. The best known and most loved depiction of Peter I on a rearing horse is the Bronze Horseman; see another post of this blog for more information about it.
Equestrian portraits of Peter the Great are abundant; they continued to proliferate after his death. The quality is quite uneven. Most of his equestrian portraits depict him on a rearing horse, with a sword. This became a canonical, cliché representation of Peter I at the battle of Poltava. The only portrait where he possibly holds a baton is the Johann Gottfried Tannauer‘s portrait. The first portrait of Peter I appears to be oddest one: it looks quite medieval, and it is doubtful that Peter ever wanted to be represented wearing old-fashioned European armour.
Other Russian Royal Horsemen, 17th – 19th Centuries↑ Back To Table Of Contents ↑
Most of Peter I’s successors also appear as the riders on the rearing horses, but not as frequently as Peter I. It seems that from a certain point it became canonical to represent Russian emperors on white horses.
The other prominent Russian monument of a horseman on a rearing horse is the Monument to Nicholas I; it is also located in Saint Petersburg. It was a great engineering achievement; this is believed to be the first equestrian statue in Europe with only two support points. However, it was universally disliked. For example, it was said that Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna of Russia (1819–1876), Nicholas’s daughter, suffered considerable discomfort because of the prominent view on the horse’s posterior from the Mariinsky Palace where she lived. The other reason is that Nicholas I was not much appreciated by Russians; in the 19th century in St. Petersburg there was a saying: “The fool of the clever catches up, but the monument stands on the way” (Russian: “Дурак умного догоняет, но памятник ему мешает!”) – this refers to Saint Isaac's Cathedral that stands right between the Bronze Horseman representing Peter I of Russia, “the clever”, and the monument to Nicholas I of Russia, “the fool”.
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