Medieval Times History of Horse Art

Medieval Horse Art painting, Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry- Limbourg brothers

Logo for Horse Art in Medieval Times. Art depicts the essential role of horses in the life of man during Medieval times..

History of Horse Art Areas and Times:

Art Bio of Sculptor Patricia Crane
Horse Artist: Four Decades of Horse Art by Patricia Crane

History of Horse Art Main Page
Ancient Civilizations
Early Oriental
Baroque Age
Eighteenth Century
 Nineteenth Century

Illustrations of Medieval Horse Art:
St Martin and the Beggar - Simone Martini
St George and the Dragon - Lucas Cranach the Elder
Saint Eustace - Antonio Pisanello
Guido Riccio da Fogliano fresco ( 1328)
Duke of Anjou, from Livre des tournois
Palazzo Medici-Riccardi: Journey of the Magi - Benozzo Gozzoli
In medieval times the horse played an essential role in the daily life of both rich and poor and horses in the  art of this period reflected these essential roles.

In 5th century B.C., in the West Rome had fallen, and Islam expanded in the 7th century. The 8th century saw the empire of Charlemagne, uniting the Christians of Western Europe ruling Byzantium, and what is now modern Turkey and Greece, with in roads into Sicily and southern Italy.

The triumph of Christianity after the fall of Rome and the chaos that followed, gave rise to the ideal of a horseman who combined the tasks of being a soldier with piety, gallantry and courtesy. A code of chivalry evolved and horses in art of the times often portrayed the heavy horses in ornate coverings as were riders, from knights in armour to lords and ladies with decorate mantles and other clothing. Christendom was firmly embedded in Western Europe as a social structure of hierarchy and presented a period of stability which saw the growth of learning and the arts of architecture and sculpture, all with religious themes.

With religion playing the utmost role, horses were not a main theme of the arts, yet they did appear in such now famous painting as St Martin and the Beggar, St George and the Dragon and The Conversion of St Paul. All in all however, the appearance of the horse in religious art was restricted through the 17th century.

In the second half of the 15th century, at the time of the Reformation, engravings and woodcuts became a popular form of art and the horse was often included in the scenes of fantasy or contemporary life. Many woodcuts and engraved prints commemorated equestrian feats of the ruling classes, with both horses and riders well decked out in finery. Jousting was an aristocratic pastime, plus there were many professional performers.

Durrer, Hans Burgkkmair and Lucas Cranach , among others, created art works of extremely ornate processional and jousting scenes.

In Medieval times, the romantic concept was depicted with heavy cavalry, until 1415 when the heavy French cavalry was struck down by the arrows of the English long-bowmen on the field of Agincourt. The heavy horse was used less and less in war and was eventually replaced by the light horse and mobile Hussars. Truly, cavalry was transformed by Frederick the Great and his cavalry general and in the1700's the Earl of Pembroke promoted great change in England. the battle charge occurred with dash and speed, a technique for which the fox hunters of the country had a special aptitude!

While Protestant Europe saw the increase of the light horse cavalry, the French maintained their liking for manege as a more disciplined and aristocratic form of horsemanship. England's Duke of Wellington stated the French horses were more manageable, but there was no gainsaying the effectiveness of a headlong charge by light cavalry.

It was most likely the earlier expansion of Islam and then the Crusades that brought the West into contact with Arab, Barb and Andalusian horses. The Gonzaga family of Mantua bred horses of oriental as well as domestic bloodlines and the School of Giulio Romano in the Plazzo del Te depict the quality of these horses.

A theme often represented in the history of horse art of Medieval times was that of death , time and the Devil, and in these artworks the horse was included, often portrayed as scrawny or emaciated. Other art works show the horses and farmers ploughing the fields, a fact of life that barely changed until the invention of the tractor in the 20th century.

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© All Photos and Sculpture Copyright 2000 - 2017, Patricia Crane.