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July 2024 | Reading time: 17 Min | 0 Comment(s)

About the exhibition “Horse in Majesty. At the heart of a civilization” at the Palace of Versailles from July 2 to November 3.

Knightly art. The term is elegant, and I find it really well chosen to evoke the representation of the horse in the arts. It is by Jean-Louis Gouraud, writer and historian, author of the book entitled Le Cheval dans l’art. The magazine Connaissance des arts devotes a very interesting article to the subject in its May issue. Where we learn in particular that of the nine hundred animals painted or engraved in the Lascaux cave, no less than three hundred and sixty are horses! This shows that animals have always inspired artists... After man, they are the living being most represented in the arts! With the equestrian events of the Olympic and Paralympic Games coming to the Versailles park this year, this is a great opportunity to display at the castle the largest exhibition ever devoted to horses and equestrian civilization in Europe, from the 15th to the 20th century. century.

To be discovered from July 2 to November 3, “Horse in Majesty” at the Château de Versailles is a rich and diverse exhibition which will highlight the crucial role of horses in royal and aristocratic life. It will allow visitors to understand the cultural and historical importance of horses, while appreciating the beauty and art linked to these majestic animals, including the harmonious proportions, the head with wide open eyes and erect ears, the pride of the port , the finesse and power of the legs are all irresistible graphic motifs. The exhibition aims to offer a visual and educational immersion through interactive installations, videos, and historical reconstructions. Visitors will be able to discover anecdotes about the famous horses of the court, equestrian traditions, and the evolution of the art of riding at Versailles. Something to delight young and old this summer. Because even though he ate it first, man never ceased to be fascinated by the horse. As proof, the works of art for sale by the representative, which are still legion today on the contemporary art market, both in the most prestigious art galleries... and in supermarkets.

Symbols of power, prestige, and nobility, as well as freedom, movement, and untamed energy, horses are also seen as sacred creatures in religion and mythology, possessing supernatural powers, like Pegasus in Greek mythology or Odin's horses in Norse mythology.

If the horse occupies a significant and varied place in art across ages and cultures, it is because its representation often reflects the values, beliefs, and concerns of the society that created it. The first representations of horses date back to the parietal art of caves, such as those of Lascaux in France. These paintings show horses in hunting scenes, emphasizing their importance in the lives of hunter-gatherers. “Probably harnessed since the 3rd or 2nd millennium, the horses pulled the chariot of the Assyrian kings sculpted on the walls of the palaces of Mesopotamia, in war as well as when hunting lions. They are painted on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs and, on the lid of Tutankhamun's sarcophagus, superbly plumed,” recalls Jérôme Coignard in his article for Connaissance des arts. They already symbolized power and nobility. In Greek and Roman art, horses are often depicted in sculptures and bas-reliefs, particularly in mythological and military scenes. In Christian art, horses are present in illuminations, tapestries, and sculptures, often associated with knights and battle scenes, reflecting their central role in warfare and medieval nobility. Horses are indeed emblematic of chivalry and nobility. They are frequently represented in coats of arms and coats of arms.

Renaissance artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, and Raphael, studied and drew horses with great anatomical precision. Horses are often present in battle scenes, equestrian portraits of nobles, and mythological scenes. On the sculpture side, equestrian statues, representing political or military leaders on horseback, become symbols of power and prestige. In modern times, Baroque and Classical artists like Peter Paul Rubens and Diego Velázquez painted impressive equestrian portraits, showcasing the power and majesty of horses. While romantics like Eugène Delacroix or Théodore Géricault overlap more with freedom and untamed nature in their works of art.

Closer to us, artists like Edgar Degas or Edouard Manet, who loved strolling at Longchamp, depicted horses in scenes of racing and leisure, capturing movement and light, and of course I can't help but think of Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky, who masterfully take up the energy of the primitive figures of knightly art in their blue, yellow or red horses painted in Munich at the beginning of the 20th century. The movement that they created with Münter, Macke, Klee, Jawlensky and a few others was called Der Blaue Reiter. In French the Blue Rider. Because “Marc loved horses, I loved riders,” Kandinsky explained quite simply. Of course also because horses symbolize concepts like freedom, power, and grace, they are also perfect subjects for expressing abstract and emotional ideas.

We have known since the work of Etienne-Jules Marey in 1872 that all representations of horses flying with all four shoes in the air as in the very Anglophile Epson Derby by Delacroix are erroneous, reminds us the journalist from Connaissance des arts. But whatever ! “Their false horses gallop better than the real ones,” wrote Jean de la Varende bluntly. “In the 20th century, “real” horses ran more and more on the sparkling turf of Deauville, seen by Dufy and Van Dongen,” writes Jérôme Coignard. “They rear up, tragically, in the bullfights of Masson and Picasso, before ending up stuffed by some of our contemporary artists like Maurizio Cattelan (The Ballad of Trotsky, 1996). Will taxidermy kill knighthood? » I don’t believe it for a second.


Valibri en RoulotteArticle written by Valibri in Roulotte

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