Silhouetted against rolling, stormy, clouds, a gray, spotted horse stands, turning its head slightly to suggest its alertness to its surroundings. Paulus Potter, the finest Dutch animal painter of his day, described the horse with scrupulous attention to physical detail: the glossy sheen of its coat and mane, the watery moistness of its eye, and the sleekly elegant lines of the animal’s body. At the same time, the artist imbued the horse with an individualized personality that combines wildness with acute sensitivity. Indeed, the animal seems to respond to the distant sound of the hunt transpiring in the middle distance.
The meaning of the painting is twofold. It is probably a horse portrait, perhaps commissioned by the owner of the country house at the right. The closely observed rendering of this domestic animal implies the pride of ownership that a wealthy Dutch landowner might have taken in the possession of such livestock. On the other hand, the horse is untethered and seems to roam free. His immaculate grooming and position before cultivated fields, however, imply that the source of Dutch prosperity lay in the control that humans were able to exert over brute nature.
Credit Line: Text courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program (CC BY 4.0).