Thursday, June 9, 2011

Orientalism and horses

'Orientalism was ultimately a political vision of reality whose structure promoted the difference between the familiar (Europe, West, "us") and the strange (the Orient, the East, "them").' Edward Said (Orientalism)
The imagined excesses of the east ... Delacroix.
Following Napoleon’s incursions into the east, the orientalist movement in art really took off. 'The East' became a canvas on which could be projected fantasies of savagery, lustfulness and luxury. Horses played a part in this - being luxury items themselves, extremely beautiful (there was no exaggeration here - the eastern horses had a massive impact on the breeds of the West) and offering artists the possibility to flaunt their realist ability to depict detailed and gorgeous saddlery! Okay, I'm over-simplifying ... 
Napoleon's eastern-bred horse, Marengo. A study by Gros.
To over-simplify even more, aside from its complicated historical and political contexts, orientalist art is a rich treasure trove of imaginary horses for us to fill our imaginary stables with! (I'll take one dapple grey, that chestnut and this bay with the white star ...)
A bay horse by Gericault