Group of Seven Horses

Hans Baldung (called Hans Baldung Grien) German

Not on view

In 1534 Baldung made three woodcuts of wild horses in a dark and dense forest, a subject unique to him that had neither precedent nor following. The prints are so idiosyncratic that they must have had strong personal meaning for him, then in about his fiftieth year. Even though the horses and their poses do not look entirely real, they are fascinating in their strangeness and intensity. This is the least overtly sexual of the three works, but it may be guessed that the stallions are fighting for possession of a mare.
In the equestrian monument or portrait, in both antiquity and the Renaissance, the horse was deemed a noble creature, a fitting mount for the ruler or leader being glorified, and both Leonardo da Vinci and Dürer made plans for treatises on the ideal proportions of the horse. Also since antiquity, however, horses--both stallions and mares--were equally reputed to be extraordinarily lustful. Further, in Germanic folklore the horse was associated with evil forces often having to do with witchcraft. The larger subject of these woodcuts, with their violence and pent-up energy, is the power of forces beyond man's understanding or control, specifically the overwhelming strength of the carnal instinct.

Group of Seven Horses, Hans Baldung (called Hans Baldung Grien) (German, Schwäbisch Gmünd (?) 1484/85–1545 Strasbourg), Woodcut

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