Upcoming Exhibit: George Stubbs “all done from nature” (UK)

George Stubbs: “all done from Nature”

12 October 2019 – 26 January 2020

MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, UK

George Stubbs (1724-1806), perhaps best known for iconic portraits of horses (Whistlejacket, National Gallery) also made a lasting impact on the study of anatomy and the natural world. An upcoming exhibition at the MK Gallery will bring together more than 40 paintings and 40 prints and drawings to illustrate Stubbs’ position as one of the great figures depicting animal species across the world.

A self-taught draughtsman, painter and printmaker, Stubbs’s reputation was established through the striking compositions that he brought to breeding, racing and hunting, and a sense of curiosity and empathy that transcended his extraordinary technical ability in numerous commissioned works for the English gentry.

Mares and Foals in a River Landscape

The exhibition includes Stubbs groundbreaking, forensic drawings of horses produced during an intense 18-month period of dissection and classification. In 1766, after five years of preparing anatomical studies based on first-hand examination of horse cadavers, Stubbs published his Anatomy of the Horse. For the first time, these studies will be displayed alongside an actual skeleton of a horse, in this case, that of Eclipse (1764-1789) – the legendary 18th-century thoroughbred and progenitor of over 90% of subsequent racehorses – as well as the several paintings of Eclipse by Stubbs.

George Stubbs, A.R.A.,
Finished study for ‘The Fourth Anatomical Table of the Muscles … of the Horse’, 1756-1758,
Pencil and black chalk, 36.2 x 49.5cm
© Royal Academy of Arts, London

While known for his equestrian art, Stubbs was an avid student of anatomy and the exhibit highlights the studies, both human and animal, that led the artists towards his last great endeavor, A Comparative Anatomical Exposition of the Structure of the Human Body with that of a Tiger and a Common Fowl (unfinished before his death in 1806). Stubbs had begun his training as the child of a Liverpool tanner, drawing left-over animal bones, before pursuing painting at York and finding a niche in anatomical engravings for medical students and practitioners, like Dr. John Burton’s midwifery textbook. With his reputation established by his anatomical work on horses, the subsequent comparative anatomical sketches, methodically arranged, earned a subscription from the Royal Academy of Arts in 1802. Stubbs’ work belongs to the work of comparative anatomists exploring the similarities and boundaries of species long before the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859.

The exhibition is co-curated by Martin Postle (Deputy Director for Collections & Publications at the Paul Mellon Centre), Paul Bonaventura and Anthony Spira. There will be a one-day conference, organized with the Paul Mellon Centre on 17 January 2020 in MK Gallery’s Sky Room, on subjects including anatomical studies, horse racing and breeding, empire and portraiture. A version of the exhibit will also tour to the Mauritshuis in The Hague.

For all of use who cannot make it to the exhibit in person, check out the extensive collection of George Stubbs holdings viewable online at the Yale Center for British Art!

Search for George Stubbs, Yale Center for British, Art Online Catalog

George Stubbs, 1724–1806, British, Zebra, exhibited 1763, Oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
recto, composite, cropped
George Stubbs, 1724–1806, British
The First Zebra Seen in England
Oil on canvas
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

References for Further Reading:

A fully illustrated 200-page catalogue will be published by Paul Holberton with new texts by Nicholas Clee, Martin Myrone, Martin Postle, Roger Robinson, Jenny Uglow and Alison Wright.

Doherty, T., The Anatomical Works of George Stubbs, London: Secker & Warburg, 1974.

Egerton, J., George Stubbs: Anatomist and Animal Painter. London: The Tate Gallery, 1976.


#ShelfieSunday: Practical Horsemanship in Medieval Arthurian Romance


Ropa, Anastasija. Practical Horsemanship in Medieval Arthurian Romance. Rewriting Equestrian History Series, vol. 1, Trivent Publishing, 2019. ISSN 2676-8097

Review by Karen Campbell

     Recently, a growing interest in animal studies, posthumanism, and particularly horses and horsemanship has emerged in academia and in medieval academia particularly. Anastasija Ropa, who obtained her Ph.D. from Bangor University, serves as an important cog in the this machine of equestrian studies through her own research on horsemanship and by organizing multiple equine centered conference sessions at the International Medieval Congress held in Leeds, England, since 2016. She has also acted as an editor for various article collections and now offers us a personally authored, concise, and intriguing journey in her book, Practical Horsemanship in Arthurian Romance, which she, appropriately, dedicates to her equine partner Fizz.

     Readers will be pleasantly surprised at how compact yet detailed her description and analyses are throughout the text. The introduction provides a quick review of relevant literature, including recognition of posthuman strains of medieval equestrian theory from noted authors like Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Susan Crane and Arthurian centered equine studies from authors like Sioned Davies. This discussion segues into a description of the need for further study of practical care of horses in medieval romance and particularly the Arthurian tradition and a summary of each of her chapters which range in topic from an interest in the relationship between the horse and a knight’s identity in the texts of Chretien de Troyes (especially the Perceval), the symbolic currency of horse feeding and fasting in the Queste del Sainte Graal, and an exploration of the connection between horses and gender also in the Queste del Saint Graal.

     Chapter 1 delves into the complex relationship between horses and social identity through a brief historical look into the development of the concept of knight, a summary of Chretien’s Perceval, the variety of horses available in Europe to influence identity, and how Perceval’s own exchange of horse, from courser to destrier, symbolizes a new status but also an incomplete shift to knight as he makes a number of chivalric errors still. Posthuman scholars may find discussion of the saddle, armor, and a shift from whip to spurs to control the different kind of horses in terms of the role of technologic influence on identity particularly helpful. The scene where a lady and her horse both are punished for having been kissed by Perceval concludes the chapter.

     Chapter 2 explores the Christian symbolism behind feasting and fasting during the Grail Quest. With a thoughtful condensation of archeological evidence of horse’s dietary practices in the Middle Ages, which should interest experts and lay readers, and the descriptions of physical feeding in romances, Ropa shows how knights and their horses connect even more closely. When the knights feast, the horses do so too; when the knights fast, so do the horses. Some consideration of Thomas Malory’s Morte D’Arthur is also included.

     Chapter 3 may be the most stimulating analysis with its consideration of the function of dirt and dirty horses and the meaning this has for gender roles in the Queste. The female Canterbury Tales characters also play a part in the discussion with the easily recognized Ellesmere portraits included for further illustration. Ropa even elucidates the horses’ frame and body language in these images before exploring the various types of female riders in the Queste and the importance of a sweaty horse to build tension in the plot and symbolize the rush its female rider is in. Ropa’s conclusion then moves readers towards the end of the medieval period and the formalization of horsemanship more as spectacle than as battlefield necessity.

     This text should delight animal studies readers, equine history and literature specialists, and equine enthusiasts with its engaging and original analysis. However, graduate and undergraduate course instructors may find this text helpful to students as an example of thorough and focused literary analysis. Further benefit is provided by the affordable price (€13), the equivalent and easily assigned lengths of chapters averaging only 25 pages, and the multitude of manuscript illuminations included in each chapter (roughly 7 per chapter) further enriching the detailed textual analysis with visual evidence. Overall, this text takes readers on a focused journey into how medieval authors considered the practical aspects of horsemanship and gave them meaning in Arthurian literature and certainly merits the time one might spend enjoying it. 

#EqHist2019 Speakers List

EHC 2019 is five months away!
Nov. 13-15

Keynote by Sandra Swart

     Sandra Swart, Professor of History at Stellenbosch University, presents a model for theswart broad research engagement that equine historians can generate. Her publications have focused on the socio-environmental history of southern Africa with a focus on the shifting relationship between humans and animals (Riding High – horses, humans and history in South Africa (Witwatersrand University Press, 2010); co-edited (with L. Van Sittert) Canis Africanis – a dog history of Southern Africa (Brill, 2008); co-authored with Greg Bankoff, Breeds of Empire: The ‘invention’ of the horse in the Philippines and Southern Africa, 1500-1950(Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Press 2007).  Sandra’s multi-disciplinary background, with a DPhil in Modern History and an MSc in Environmental Change and Management, demonstrates the potential of new research at the intersection of animal and environmental concerns.  She has produced a multitude of works engaging with the social history of environmental boundaries and conservation. Many of our equine researchers rely on her work not only for content and context, but also for theory and methodology. She has been instrumental in developing frameworks for approaching indigenous and colonial relationships to the natural environment throughout the world.

Additional Activities

Invited Speakers

Francisco Javier Cambero Santano and María Martín-Cuervo
The artistic representation of Pizarro’s horse: Reality vs. Myth

Charlotte Carrington-Farmer
Equine Labour – Enslaved Labour: New England and the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World

Kerri Clement
Counting Cows and Hawking Horses: Digital History and Transnational Cattle Ranching Networks in Montana, 1860-1915

Margaret Derry
Pedigrees, Purity, and Breed: The World Arabian Horse Organization versus the Arabian Horse Registry of America in the Orchestration of Trade, 1970-2000

Camden Elliott
Horses in the Back (and at the Front): Equine Illness in 19th Century North American Warfare

Jane Flynn
“Most Frightful People” How Mules earned their Names in The Great War

Kyuhyun Han
Embodied Revolution: Equine Experience, Warhorse Exhibition, and Cultural Legacy of Chinese Communist Revolution

Rebecca Hill
title TBA

Christian K. Krueger
Battle for the Bluegrass: Racers, Raiders, and the American Civil War

Jaime Lira Garrido
Revisiting the Iberian origins of the North American horses: Approaching the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean combining ancient DNA and historical registries from the Colonial Era

Jennifer G. Marks
A Streetcar Named Efficiency: Temporality and Morality in the Equine City, 1870-1900

María Martín-Cuervo
The Iron Age sacrificed horses from the Iberian Tartessic ‘Turuñuelo de Guareña’ site

Nicole Mathwich and Rae G. Whitley
The Public Horse Embodied: Requisition, Use, and Replacement of the Military Horse in the Great Sioux War

Monica Mattfeld and Kristen Guest
title TBA: Thoroughbred Fashions

Elizabeth McCague
‘The races just over I did not go—we had lost one of our fine large Greays & I could not go in good stile’: The horse as a symbol of status at James Madison’s Montpelier

Ann McKinnon
Entanglement, Ethics and the H.DV.12 German Cavalry Manual

Kathryn McLachlan
title TBA: Quaggas

Hannah Palsa
“They Were Taken to Camp and Slaughtered for the Dogs,” War Dog Centers, Remounts, and How the Working Animal Is Perceived in Wartime

Teresa Rogers
When Small Size Mattered: Crescent Silvertone, Lisle Woolery, and the Kellogg Shetlands

John Schiewe
Pioneering American Breeders of Pure Polish Arabians, 1961–1985: An Examination of “Best Practices”

Mariam Selge
Communicating Bodies: Negotiating a Common Language in Early Modern German Horsemanship Manuals

Chelsea Shields-Más
Equus, runcinus, palefridus, summarius: the horses of Domesday Book

Carly Silver
The Hoof as Relic: How Equine Champions’ Feet Carry Them Into Eternal Memory

Tobi Lopez Taylor
Politics and Pedigrees: America’s Cold War-Era Arabian Horse Registration Debacle

Moira Walker
title TBA (on Western and Bedouin concepts of the Arabian)

Frank Whitehead
“The Two are Pardners”: Rodeo Cowboys, Their Horses, and a Distinctly Western Relationship

Mitch Wilkinson
The Genetics of Curly Coated Horses

Carolyn Willekes
Embodying the Racehorse: Equines, Hippodromes, and Aristocratic Identity in the Greek World

Chronicle of African Americans in the Horse Industry Shareback Session: Thursday, June 13, 6:00–7:00pm in Lexington, KY

The International Museum of the Horse and the Chronicle of African Americans in the Horse Industry invites the interested public to a Shareback Session on Thursday, June 13, from 6–7pm in the Lexington Public Library, in Lexington, KY. This free presentation is a follow-up to their History Harvests events held in April and May, which invited people to share their stories and artifacts related to the history of African Americans in the horse industry. At the Shareback Session, organizers will share some of the discoveries, mementos, documents and stories that contributors brought. For more information about the History Harvests, see this blog post.

The goal of the Chronicle of African Americans in the Horse Industry project is to create an online, interactive archive to house and display photos, documents, artifacts, and oral histories of African Americans who have worked, and continue to work in equine industries. Its users will be able to connect the past to the present. It is funded by a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and housed at the International Museum of the Horse.

Shareback Session Image


#SourceSaturday: The Lasker Collection at the Huntington Library (San Marino, CA)

The Huntington Library in San Marino, CA possesses a rich collection of equine manuscripts, rare books, and horse-racing documentation from the 15th to the 20th century. The collection has an enormous breadth, from classical horsemanship manuals, to studbooks, auction records, equestrian law and clippings from horse-racing periodicals. Made up of over 7,000 volumes, the collection represents the life-long passion of Edward Lasker (1912-1997), a Los Angeles attorney and businessman who bred and raced Thoroughbreds for most of his life. The collection was donated by his widow, Cynthia Lasker, in 2010.

The online finding aid for the manuscripts and rare books in the Edward Lasker Collection documents approximately 1400 rare titles. Some of these present a catalog of the major early works in horsemanship and horse care from classical authors. The earliest work in the collection is an Italian imprint of  Liber Marescalciae equorum by Laurentius Rusius from 1489.  Rare books from the French classical horsemanship tradition include a translation of the Hippiater of Constantine Porphyrogenitus into French by Jean Massé, the works of Pierre de la Noue, Jean Saunier, and François Robichon de La Guérinière.

The works related to horse racing primarily cover Great Britain and the United States, including stud books and registers, steeplechasing results, and two volumes dealing with horse races at “The Derby,” and “The St. Leger.” A Huntington Verso blog post details the collection’s ties to 20th century California racetracks: “California Conquest“, featuring English and American sporting magazines, racing calendars and works related to equestrian sports personalities. The global breadth of modern horse-racing include texts about Persian, German, Russian, French, Italian, Australian, South American and Asian racing.

The full bibliographic record for the Lasker Collection can be viewed through the Huntington Library Catalog using a Keyword search or a Subject search for “Edward Lasker”.

CalifChrome-02Playing cards showing scenes at Rancho Santa Anita and its owner, “Lucky” Baldwin (San Francisco: Alverson Comstock, ca. 1895). Matt Stevens, “California Conquest” Verso, The Blog of the Huntington Library, June 5, 2014 .