Art chronicles the myriad roles horses have played in our history, but it’s blinkered to see them just as a resource, says Elaine Walker, Associate Lecturer for A230 Reading and studying literature at The Open University.
Elaine has written a review of a new exhibition at the British Museum regarding the role of horses depicted through art over the past 5,000 years in the Times Higher Education.
The Horse: From Arabia to Royal Ascot
British Museum, London, until 30 September
When I read that this exhibition would focus on two breeds – the Arab and the thoroughbred – I thought it would struggle to also show “the epic story of the horse” over 5,000 years. However, curators John Curtis and Nigel Tallis have used the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics to draw out threads in that story. The iconic image of the monarch on horseback and the popularity of modern equestrian sport waymark their thematic journey from the ancient Near East to contemporary Britain.
The exhibition includes objects from the British Museum and other notable collections. Although many are on permanent display and some are familiar from books, when gathered together their impact is considerable. Even the most finely produced images cannot fully capture the shimmer in the gypsum wall plaques from Assyria or the contrast between the blue lapis lazuli, cream shell and red limestone on the Standard of Ur. The array of severe bits from early Luristan takes on a clear context when they lead the way to a full-size model of an armoured Islamic horse and warrior.
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