Friday, February 13, 2009

(Sir) Edwin Henry Landseer - The Shrew Tamed

also known as The Pretty Horsebreaker
first exhibited 1861
oil on canvas
Also shown at the Exposition Universalle in Paris, 1867
untraced since 1892 it was sold for £140,000 at Sotherby's in 1994.
The model was Annie Gilbert a noted horsewoman and occasional model (she can also be seen in Frith's Derby Day) The Pretty Horsebreaker is a reference both to horse taming (and perhaps a nod towards female supremecy) and was the name given to the courtesans who rode horses along Rotten Row in Hyde Park in the 1860's. They hired their horses but were noted as extremely good riders and were always dressed in the height of fashion.
At one time the picture was owned by the Duke of Sutherland.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I have just read a book "The worlds most notorious women" which states that the model was Catherine Walters alias "Skittles" who was a courtesan but also an excellent horsewoman.

I would love to know who is correct.

Hermes said...

I'm not sure but you could be right. I found this:

which goes with you.

Anonymous said...

The Times review of the exhibition identified the model as 'Miss Gilbert' (The Times Saturday, May 4, 1861)

Anonymous said...

There's a searchable copy of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine of August 1861 available online, and a reference there makes it clear that at least some clued-up contemporaries confidently assumed the model was Skittles, or at least that Landseer intended to reference her. You have to wonder whether Landseer was using Miss Gilbert as a blind. It would be interesting to find a photo of her - did she resemble Skittles that closely?

Anonymous said...

The Times review of the exhibition says the model is 'Miss Gilbert', presumably Ann Gilbert the professional horsebreaker who advertised her services in the paper from 1856 onwards; and that she is demonstrating a method pioneered by an American, Mr Rarey, who caused a bit of a sensation by demonstrating 'horse whisperer' techniques to the Royal Family in 1858. These involved him taking an unmanageable horse and within a short while having it lie on the straw, apparently calm and indifferent while he lay on its side and even ran a wheelbarrow over it. You can believe it, you read it in The Times!

Hermes said...

Thank you all.

Unknown said...

I'm a bit late on this bandwagon, but I'm currently doing my dissertation on British courtesans - looking specifically at Catherine "Skittles" Walters. The model painted in this picture was in fact Skittles, but as a concession to respectability, it was said that the subject of the portrait was the chaste horsewoman - Miss Gilbert. The painting bore no resemblance to Miss Gilbert, and was instead a photographic likeness of Skittles Walters - no one of the time was deceived (despite The Times' attempts!)