The horse is perhaps the most common subject of art, appearing in paintings and prints throughout history as both a mode of transportation and a weapon of war. Today, it is most often depicted as a majestic racehorse or in a portrait. But equestrian art also provides a fascinating glimpse into the anatomy of the animal. In this vintage book, George Stubbs presents an exhaustive study of the horse’s skeleton and muscular structure, with detailed illustrations and explanations that are both scholarly and beautifully presented.
George Stubbs was born in England in 1724 and is known as “the horse painter.” His work has been compared to the great equine artist Sir Alfred Munnings, although his focus was primarily on horses. He specialized in painting racehorses and spent eighteen months dissecting skeletons of horses to better understand the physiology of this remarkable creature. The result of his efforts was an extraordinary body of drawings and engravings that aided later artists in their own studies of the horse.
Stubbs was an accomplished amateur jockey as well as an able artist and the accuracy of his illustrations is remarkable. He shows both the outer appearance of the horse as well as its internal structures, describing the muscles, tendons, and ligaments with remarkable clarity. He begins with three preliminary skeleton tables, followed by plates showing the superficial muscles in each position (front, side, and back). Then he continues to expose the deepest layers of muscle, and finally the arteries and nerves. His presentation is so clear that the toil of his dissections becomes a source of beauty, and the viewer can almost sense the horse’s muscular movement.
This rare edition of the book is published in two parts. The first part contains a modern paraphrase of Stubbs’ text, while the second part presents his plates in the original first-edition format. The first section of the text has been transcribed from the manuscript in the Victoria and Albert Museum; it was edited and prepared for publication by J. C. McCunn and C. W. Ottaway. The plates, reproduced directly from the first edition (1766), are engraved on plates 19 inches by 15 inches. The book is a must for any collector of Stubbs’s works or of equestrian art in general. It is also an invaluable reference for students of comparative anatomy and for those who keep or train horses.