Horses in Art

Horses in Art

Last week I took a day off from riding to take my working student into Manhattan for a cultural diversion. Maja is from Germany and is curious to explore New York beyond the farm.

Although we thought we were escaping the horse world for a day, we were reminded that horses have been with man since the beginning of time. They appear evrywhere in art throughout the ages. The Metropolitan Museum is enormous, so Maja chose several areas of special interest to explore.

Our first stop was on the second floor in the gallery of Nineteenth Century European paintin and sculture. We were mesmerized by “The Horse Fair”, a large painting depicting a scene from the horse market in Paris around 1853. This could easily have been a scene at the Dutchess County Fair years ago. The artist, Rosa Bonheur, visited the market daily for nearly 2 years, dressed as a man to avoid attention. Her study takes you to the fair where you can almost hear the horses breathing and the sound of their hoofbeats on the boulevard.

Directly behind Rosa’s painting was a beautiful bronze Hippogriff—half horse, half dragon sculpted by Antoine Louise Barye. He was among many artists at the time who depicted horses of all breeds in their work—from workhorses to racehorses.

Now it became a challenge to see if we could pass through a room without finding a horse…

As we worked our way over to the Asian wing, we passed a 5th century stone from Pakistan which was the fragment of a lid depicting a Hunting Scene with several horses chasing something….it could have been the Millbrook Hunt chasing a fox across my corn field.

The next room Maja found a Terracotta rhyton, or libation vessel in the form of a horse from Archaic Art in Cyprus

Finally passing into the Buddhist temple,–our destination– we passed a Majestic figure of a Horse from the Tang Dynasty, late 7th century..

The museum was closing and as we walked out, we ran into a friend who boards a horse at my farm. She was surprised to see us in the city. We told her about our adventure and how it was impossible to avoid horses. She agreed, and told us about childhood memory, some 50 years ago, when she would go out to the barn and bury her head in her ponies mane to escape the world. As she closed her eyes, she said she could still smell Bessie.

We laughed and resolved that it was fun to get away from the farm, but it is impossible to avoid horses.