3,000 Years Of Horsemen On Rearing Horses: Motivation And Contributions

All art intuitively apprehends coming changes in the collective unconsciousness... Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument. The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purpose through him.

Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961)


All science is either physics or stamp collecting.

Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937), as told to John Desmond Bernal


The key to a great story is not who, or what, or when, but why.

Elliot Carver, Tomorrow Never Dies (James Bond franchise), 1997



This work contains over 1,500 objects that show horsemen on rearing horses.
However, it is not about the horsemen!
It gives us the following:

  • We can see art as a continuous process, a flow, rather than a random sequence of valuable objects. We can see how the trends, like the waves, appear, rise, then fall and eventually disappear. Similarities in styles, techniques and people who appear in these images will inform us about the links between different epochs and cultures;
  • The choice of who is represented as a horseman (or a horsewoman) will tell us about who matters, who is on the pedestal, when the art object was created, etc.;
  • We can see how artistic styles and techniques, the role of art, as well as science and technology in general, evolve through time.

In a sense, we can try and see the progress of the horsemen as a physical phenomenon, but not the deterministic physics Ernest Rutherford had in mind, more like the light in Richard Feynmann‘s quantum electrodynamics. Indeed, any given light particle photon behaves randomly, and any given art object is random. But, just as the rays of light have a predictable trajectory, defined by the environment and the objects that absorb light or allow it to reflect against, the overall trajectory of art is determined, or, as Carl Jung has suggested, it anticipates the transformations of the society within which it is created.

Contributions

I was trying to allow the objects to do the talking and only add verbal information when it is not straightforward to deduce it from the pictures.

The list of some of the existing research works that make the connections is below.

The Origins of the Formula Of a Horseman on a rearing Horse

In “The Intaglio of Solomon in the Benaki Museum and the Origins of the Iconography of Warrior Saints”, Christopher Walter points out that

Scholars have speculated as to the origin of the formula. Goodenough suggested that it derived from Egypt and that is was taken over from the Thracian good Hero. However, triumphal figures on horseback trampling or spearing a fallen enemy were so common in antique imperial and funerary imagery that it is hardly possible to fix a precise origin for the triumph of Solomon,…

This 4-parts work hopefully places Thracian good Hero, Solomon and many more in the context and gives sense to the chain of transformations of the image of a horseman on a rearing horse.

Adding missing connection elements in the Genealogy of Horsemen on Rearing horses

This Getty museum research article makes a link between Bellerophon and Saint George but omits possible connections with the Middle Eastern images, depictions of royalty etc.

A more complete genealogy of horsemen on rearing horses can be found here.

Emperor Charles V at Mühlberg: Finding Missing Precedents And Echoes

Equestrian Portrait of Charles V at the battle of Mühlberg, 1548, Titian, Augsburg, Germany
Equestrian Portrait of Charles V at the battle of Mühlberg,
1548, Titian, Augsburg, Germany
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Researchers of Prado say: “‘The Emperor Charles V at Mühlberg’ lacks precedents in Italian art… Despite its seminal nature, this truly exceptional work did not find immediate echoes in art, and the equestrian portrait had to wait until the early decades of the 17th century and the hand of Peter Paul Rubens before it came to occupy a place of honour in court art.”

We could argue that, while prior portraits of contemporary horsemen with similar iconography are indeed unexistent, many prints and possibly tapestries with comparable iconography were produced at that time north of the Alps, some in the Italian manner. In addition, we can find Italian portraits of Marcus Curtius. Thus, this portrait is indeed exceptional in quality, but very well fits with other equestrian portraits produced at that time in other art forms.

COMPARANDUM: Marcus Curtius, cr. 1520-30, possibly by Bacchiacca, Florence
COMPARANDUM: Marcus Curtius,
cr. 1520-30, possibly by Bacchiacca, Florence
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COMPARANDUM: Marcus Curtius Leaping into the Abyss, cr. 1530, Pseudo-Pacchia, Siena
COMPARANDUM: Marcus Curtius Leaping into the Abyss,
cr. 1530, Pseudo-Pacchia, Siena
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COMPARANDUM: Otto, Count of Nassau and his Wife Adelheid van Vianen (a tapestry design), 1530–35, Bernard van Orley, Brussels, Flanders
COMPARANDUM: Otto, Count of Nassau and his Wife Adelheid van Vianen (a tapestry design),
1530–35, Bernard van Orley, Brussels, Flanders
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COMPARANDUM: 'The Emperor Charles V at a hawking party', tapestry design, cr. 1535, Bernard Van Orley, Flemish/Netherlandish
COMPARANDUM: 'The Emperor Charles V at a hawking party', tapestry design,
cr. 1535, Bernard Van Orley, Flemish/Netherlandish
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COMPARANDUM: Emperor Charles V on Horseback, 1538-45, Cornelis Anthonisz (manner of) and Hans Liefrinck (I), Antwerp, Netherlands
COMPARANDUM: Emperor Charles V on Horseback,
1538-45, Cornelis Anthonisz (manner of) and Hans Liefrinck (I), Antwerp, Netherlands
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As for the echoes, there is one painting that was definitely an echo of the Titian’s painting: portrait of Reinoud III van Brederode, a member of the privy council and chamberlain to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The painting is of inferior quality, made just two years after the portrait on an emperor, most probably an attempt of the sitter to link himself to the emperor through art. Then there were two portraits of French kings, Charles IX of France and Henry IV of France, both painted in oils, both of lower quality compared to Titian’s masterpiece, but noticeable regardless.

COMPARANDUM: Reinoud III van Brederode, circa 1550, Cornelis Anthonisz
COMPARANDUM: Reinoud III van Brederode,
circa 1550, Cornelis Anthonisz
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COMPARANDUM: Charles IX, King of France, 1565-99, unknown artist
COMPARANDUM: Charles IX, King of France,
1565-99, unknown artist
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COMPARANDUM: Portrait of Henri IV on horseback with Paris on the background, 1553-1610, probably after 1594, ?
COMPARANDUM: Portrait of Henri IV on horseback with Paris on the background,
1553-1610, probably after 1594, ?
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But what really creates continuity is the abundance of printed portraits of royalties on rearing horses, many of which were following very similar iconography, including the angle at which you see the horsemen.

COMPARANDUM: Hannibal mounted on a horse, 1530-1562, Virgil Solis, Nuremberg, Germany
COMPARANDUM: Hannibal mounted on a horse,
1530-1562, Virgil Solis, Nuremberg, Germany
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COMPARANDUM: Giovanni de Medici in a Duel, cr. 1578, Hendrick Goltzius, Netherlands
COMPARANDUM: Giovanni de Medici in a Duel,
cr. 1578, Hendrick Goltzius, Netherlands
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COMPARANDUM: Marcus Curtius, The Roman Heroes series, 1586, Hendrik Goltzius
COMPARANDUM: Marcus Curtius, The Roman Heroes series,
1586, Hendrik Goltzius
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COMPARANDUM: Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, on Horseback, cr. 1579-1637, Crispijn van de Passe, Netherlands
COMPARANDUM: Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, on Horseback,
cr. 1579-1637, Crispijn van de Passe, Netherlands
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COMPARANDUM: Equestrian portrait of Carlo Emmanuele, Duke of Savoy,Raphael Sadeler I, 1580-1600
COMPARANDUM: Equestrian portrait of Carlo Emmanuele, Duke of Savoy,
Raphael Sadeler I, 1580-1600
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COMPARANDUM: Equestrian portrait of Henri III,1585-1589, Robert Boissard
COMPARANDUM: Equestrian portrait of Henri III,
1585-1589, Robert Boissard
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COMPARANDUM: Rudolf II on horseback, 1603, Aegidius Sadeler, Marcus Sadeler and Adriaen de Vries, ?
COMPARANDUM: Rudolf II on horseback,
1603, Aegidius Sadeler, Marcus Sadeler and Adriaen de Vries, ?
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If you look at Rubens’s portraits, the first one shows the horseman and the horse at an unorthodox angle: the chest of the horse is facing the viewer. However, two later portraits comply with the standard set by the prints. This suggests that Rubens’s portraits were not created in the vacuum, but indeed they were influenced by the portraits and prints that were created earlier.

COMPARANDUM: Equestrian Portrait of Giancarlo Doria, 1606, Peter Paul Rubens
COMPARANDUM: Equestrian Portrait of Giancarlo Doria,
1606, Peter Paul Rubens
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COMPARANDUM: Equestrian Portrait of the Duke of Buckingham, 1625, Peter Paul Rubens
COMPARANDUM: Equestrian Portrait of the Duke of Buckingham,
1625, Peter Paul Rubens
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COMPARANDUM: The Cardinal-Infante Don Fernando de Austria at the Battle of Nördlingen, 1634-5, Peter Paul Rubens
COMPARANDUM: The Cardinal-Infante Don Fernando de Austria at the Battle of Nördlingen,
1634-5, Peter Paul Rubens
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First Large-Scale statues of a horsemen on a rearing horse

The first project of a large-scale statue of a horseman on a rearing horse was not the famous project of a statue of Francesco Sforza designed by Leonardo in 1480s, but a project of a statue for the monument of Niccolò III d'Este designed by Jacopo Bellini in 1440-1470. Unfortunately, his project did not win the competition, and, had it been realised, the statue would, in all likelihood, be unbalanced.

A sculpture of a classical horseman holding a severed head on a base with a relief of a scene of judgement, c. 1440-1470, Jacopo Bellini
A sculpture of a classical horseman holding a severed head on a base with a relief of a scene of judgement,
c. 1440-1470, Jacopo Bellini
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COMPARANDUM: The reproduction of the monument to Niccolò III d'Este, original created in 1451 (?) and destructed by 1796, Leon Battista Alberti or Niccolò Baroncelli and Antonio di Cristoforo (?), Ferrara, Italy
COMPARANDUM: The reproduction of the monument to Niccolò III d'Este,
original created in 1451 (?) and destructed by 1796, Leon Battista Alberti or Niccolò Baroncelli and Antonio di Cristoforo (?), Ferrara, Italy
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COMPARANDUM: Study for an equestrian monument,c.1485-90, Leonardo da Vinci
COMPARANDUM: Study for an equestrian monument,
c.1485-90, Leonardo da Vinci
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Balancing the large-scale statue of a horseman on a rearing horse is not easy.

Famously, the statue of Philip IV of Spain, designed by Pietro Tacca and completed in 1640, widely assumed to be the first completed large-scale monument of a horseman on a rearing horse, was balanced using the method suggested by Galileo Galilei, and it was using the tail as its third support point. The other widely accepted assumption is that the first large-scale statue of a horseman on a rearing horse with two support points (the tail is up in the air) is the statue of Andrew Jackson, the 7th president of the U.S.A., designed by Clark Mills (sculptor) and completed in 1852.

Both assumptions seem to be incorrect. As early as in 1632, Caspar Gras has designed a statue of Leopold V, Archduke of Austria (1586 – 1632) for the fountain in Innsbruck. The statue was completed but, unfortunately, it could not be installed until 1893, probably because of the death of the duke, thus not taking the place in the history of arts that it deserves.

COMPARANDUM: Monument to Philip IV, Pietro Tacca, 1634-40, Madrid
COMPARANDUM: Monument to Philip IV, Pietro Tacca,
1634-40, Madrid
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COMPARANDUM: Statue of Andrew Jackson, 1852, Clark Mills, Washington D.C., U.S.A.
COMPARANDUM: Statue of Andrew Jackson,
1852, Clark Mills, Washington D.C., U.S.A.
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Equestrian statue of Archduke Leopold V on top of Leopoldsbrunnen, 1631, Caspar Gras, Innsbruck, Austria
Equestrian statue of Archduke Leopold V on top of Leopoldsbrunnen,
1631, Caspar Gras, Innsbruck, Austria
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Leopoldsbrunnen, photograph taken before 1941, 1623-30, Position: 1893, Innsbruck, Austria
Leopoldsbrunnen, photograph taken before 1941,
1623-30, Position: 1893, Innsbruck, Austria
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Byzantine Bowl: Origins of the Motif

The description of the bowl with a scene of a triumph of Constantius II states:

The vessel shows a composition typical of Roman coins: the Emperor on horseback is piercing the enemy with a spear.

Yet the iconography of the image is perhaps closer to what we find on Greek vessels. We also find somewhat similar imagery, a royalty on a rearing horse being crowned by a deity, on Sasanian silver plates, although their equivalents of Nike/Victoria are much smaller and are flying rather than standing.

A larger selection of objects showing rulers on rearing horses receiving victory emblems from deities can be found here.

A bowl with a scene of a triumph of Constantius II, mid-4th century AD
A bowl with a scene of a triumph of Constantius II,
mid-4th century AD
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COMPARANDUM: Bell-krater showing a horseman crowned by Nike,cr. 420 BC, Attic
COMPARANDUM: Bell-krater showing a horseman crowned by Nike,
cr. 420 BC, Attic
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COMPARANDUM: Plate with a King Hunting Animals,7th century
COMPARANDUM: Plate with a King Hunting Animals,
7th century
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COMPARANDUM: Dish showing a king hunting, 6th-8th century
COMPARANDUM: Dish showing a king hunting,
6th-8th century
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Magical Amulet

Véronique Dasen in her paper Magic and Medicine: the Power of Seals has quoted C. Bonner, “Studies in Magical Amulets. Chiefly Graeco-Egyptian”, saying that

The motif of the rider may derive from Horus stabbing a crocodile personifying evil, or the hunting emperor struck on coins, though Solomon is not in military costume.

The analogy with the hunting emperors struck on coins seems imperfect because they seem to be engaged in game hunting rather than in a fight of good against evil. Egyptian analogy also appears imperfect: indeed, Horus had been depicted spearing Set, who was personifying evil, but, except for one highly idiosyncratic window decoration, Horus was depicted on foot, not on horseback.

Magical pendant with Holy Rider on horseback, trampling over a dragon lying on the ground, 5th century, Byzantine
Magical pendant with Holy Rider on horseback, trampling over a dragon lying on the ground,
5th century, Byzantine
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Magical gem with a rider on a rearing horse (Solomon) stabbing a woman lying on the earth (Lilith), 4th century
Magical gem with a rider on a rearing horse (Solomon) stabbing a woman lying on the earth (Lilith),
4th century
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COMPARANDUM: Commodus on horseback in a venatio, spearing panther, 185, Rome
COMPARANDUM: Commodus on horseback in a venatio, spearing panther,
185, Rome
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COMPARANDUM: Horus the Horseman (part of window decoration), 4th century, Coptic
COMPARANDUM: Horus the Horseman
(part of window decoration),
4th century, Coptic
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COMPARANDUM: Wall relief of fight between Set and Horus where Horus spears Set (crocodile), Temple of Edfu, Egypt, 237 BC - 57 BC
COMPARANDUM: Wall relief of fight between Set and Horus where Horus spears Set (crocodile),
Temple of Edfu, Egypt, 237 BC - 57 BC
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COMPARANDUM: Wall relief of fight between Set and Horus where Horus spears Set (hippopotamus), Temple of Edfu, Egypt, 237 BC - 57 BC
COMPARANDUM: Wall relief of fight between Set and Horus where Horus spears Set (hippopotamus),
Temple of Edfu, Egypt, 237 BC - 57 BC
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It seems that the depictions of Bellerophon spearing Chimera and also some ancient Greek imagery make a much closer analogy.

Magical pendant with Holy Rider on horseback, trampling over a dragon lying on the ground, 5th century, Byzantine
Magical pendant with Holy Rider on horseback, trampling over a dragon lying on the ground,
5th century, Byzantine
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Magical gem with a rider on a rearing horse (Solomon) stabbing a woman lying on the earth (Lilith), 4th century
Magical gem with a rider on a rearing horse (Solomon) stabbing a woman lying on the earth (Lilith),
4th century
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COMPARANDUM: Plasma scarabaeoid seal: Persian Horseman Slaying a Greek with a Spear, cr. 450-400 BC, Greek/Ionian
COMPARANDUM: Plasma scarabaeoid seal: Persian Horseman Slaying a Greek with a Spear,
cr. 450-400 BC, Greek/Ionian
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COMPARANDUM: Calyx-krater with Bellerophon, cr. 370 BC, Faliscan/Etruscan
COMPARANDUM: Calyx-krater with Bellerophon,
cr. 370 BC, Faliscan/Etruscan
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COMPARANDUM: Tetradrachm of King Paionia, 335–315 BC, Paeonia
COMPARANDUM: Tetradrachm of King Paionia,
335–315 BC, Paeonia
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COMPARANDUM: Pitcher (oinochoe) with a battle of the Greeks and Amazons, cr. 320–310 BC, Apulia
COMPARANDUM: Pitcher (oinochoe) with a battle of the Greeks and Amazons,
cr. 320–310 BC, Apulia
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COMPARANDUM: Mosaic depicting Bellerophon on rearing Pegasus trampling Chimaera, 2nd half of 2nd century BC, Autun, France (Roman culture)
COMPARANDUM: Mosaic depicting Bellerophon on rearing Pegasus trampling Chimaera,
2nd half of 2nd century BC, Autun, France (Roman culture)
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