A Little Series of Horses

Early print of a horse

Print by unknown artist

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Today being the day of the Grand National, I thought I’d like to show you this little series of early engravings of horses. We don’t know who created them or quite when they were made (though we think it was around 1600) but to me the artist has given them a certain life and charm.

Early print of a horse

Print by unknown artist

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As anyone who has tried will know, horses are difficult creatures to draw, especially in movement. The horse or horses that the artist must have studied to make these prints was clearly quite lively, so the amount of detail and action these prints convey show some skill in draftsmanship.

Early print of a horse

Print by unknown artist

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We don’t know for sure why these engravings were made, but as the set seems to cover the horse from all different angles and in a number of poses, they may have been as practice for a larger and more detailed artwork, or they may have been designed as illustrations to a book or pamphlet.

Early print of a horse

Print by an unknown artist

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The actual prints themselves are tiny (4.8cm by 6.7cm), which may support the idea that they were intended as studies or for book illustration, but may equally be due to a scarcity or expense of paper and printing materials such as the metal for plates.

Early print of a horse

Print by an unknown artist

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I like the idea that these might have been designed to be illustrations for a book such as this one on horsemanship, but these horses look so wild and unruly that it may have been a rather offputting volume….

Early print of a horse

Print by an unknown artist

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Click on each image for more details, or here to see the full set of 23 engravings.

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