British Museum announces The horse. from Arabia to Royal Ascot

. May 12, 2012 . 0 Comments

The British Museum presents The horse. from Arabia to Royal Ascot. A Diamond Jubilee Celebration on view 24 May – 30 September 2012.

The history of the horse is the history of civilisation itself. The horse has had a revolutionary impact on ancient civilisations and this major exhibition explores the influence of horses in Middle Eastern history, from their domestication around 3,500 BC to the present day. Britain’s long equestrian tradition is examined from the introduction of the Arabian breed in the 18th century to present day sporting events such as Royal Ascot and the Olympic Games.


James Seymour (1702–1752), A bay horse being led by a training groom. This horse is likely to be the famous racehorse Flying Childers. Watercolour, 18th century. British Museum

Important loans from the British Library, the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Royal Armouries, as well as rare material from Saudi Arabia, will be seen alongside objects from the British Museum’s exceptional collection, including famous pieces such as the Standard of Ur and Achaemenid Persian reliefs. Supported by the Board of Trustees of the Saudi Equestrian Fund, the Layan Cultural Foundation and Juddmonte Farms. In association with the Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities.

The domestication of the horse more than 5,000 years ago dramatically changed human history. Domestication is thought to have first happened on the steppes of South Russia with horses being introduced into the Middle East around 2,300BC. Before this introduction, asses and donkeys were used for transport, predominantly as harness animals pulling cumbersome but technologically advanced vehicles – as seen on objects found at the Royal Cemetery of Ur -but gradually horses became the means of faster transportation for these early societies. The exhibition includes one of the earliest known depictions of a horse and rider: a terracotta mould found in Mesopotamia (Iraq) dating to around 2,000 – 1,800 BC. Horses became a vital component in warfare and hunting, as reflected in the art of ancient Assyria, where elaborate and ornate horse trappings and ornaments were developed reflecting the prestige and status of horse, charioteer and rider. Riding became an essential part of society during the Achaemenid period (5th -4th century BC), a cylinder seal of Darius, dating to 522 – 486 BC shows the king hunting lions in a chariot, and famously, the Achaemenid’s introduced ‘post horses’ which were used to deliver messages on the royal road. The horsemen of the Parthian Empire (3rd century BC – 3rd century AD) were celebrated by Roman authors for the ‘Parthian shot’, in which an apparently retreating rider would shoot arrows backwards whilst on horseback. The renown of Parthian horsemen is shown in their representation on terracotta plaques and bronze belt buckles in the British Museum collection.

Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Mughal miniature paintings, ceramics and manuscripts all attest to the growing importance of the horse in the Islamic world from the 7th century AD. Exquisite Mughal miniatures depict princes with their valued Middle Eastern steeds, horses that were famed for their speed and spirit. A magnificent Furusiyya manuscript, dating to the 14th century AD, on loan from the British Library, is a beautifully illustrated manual of horsemanship, including information on proper care for the horse, advanced riding techniques, expert weapon handling, manoeuvres and elaborate parade formations.

British Museum
Great Russell Street
London
WC1B 3DG
www.britishmuseum.org

Category: Museum News

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