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Stable Relationships

April 2018 by Dr Georgina Downey

Edwin Landseer’s The Shrew Tamed (also known as The Pretty Horse Breaker), on first sight, seems to be a study in interspecies harmony, affection and trust. It’s a beautifully serene work, and Landseer’s handling of the paintwork in the straw, and on the mare’s silken coat and bay dapples is exquisite. 

We also see his hallmark of endowing animals with expressive characters as nuanced and significant as in human portraiture of that period. 

However, a closer reading reveals this painting as a demonstration of the taming techniques of the ‘horse whisperer’ John Solomon Rarey, performed here by one of his star pupils, the English equestrienne, Ann Gilbert.