PAULUS POTTER

1625 Enkhuizen - Amsterdam 1654

The Plough Horses 1652


etching; 159 x 242 mm (6 ¼ x 9 9/16 inches)

Bartsch 12, Hollstein second state (of three)

WATERMARK
foolscap with five-pointed collar, pendant numeral 4, and three roundels below

PROVENANCE
John Barnard, London (Lugt 1419); sale, Thomas Philipe, London, April 16 ff., 1798, 3rd day, part of lot 66, described as: Five of horses - very fine and scarce, £1.16.0 to John Woodhouse (who had no mark); sale, Mr. Christie, London, January 22 ff., 1801, 2nd day, part of lot 47, described as Five- horses - exceedingly scarce, and fine beautiful impressions, £8.0.0

A fine impression, printing with subtle tone; a fine printer’s crease at upper left and a hardy noticeable vertical fold, otherwise in very good condition; thread margins all round.Potter’s prints are very rare, and this beautiful impression is in the second state, before the edges were cleaned up (only one impression—in the British Museum, London—of the unfinished and as yet unsigned first state is cited in Hollstein).The artist, who died very young, can be seen as a precursor of George Stubbs, in the sense that the animals he depicts in his small oeuvre of etchings are the sole focus of his attention, are “portraits,” as they are in his paintings; except in two plates, which include a cowherd and a shepherd, humanity is absent, and there is no narrative content.The set of five prints, to which this plate belongs, may represent, in an unsentimental age, the gamut of the existence of this essential beast. The first, more pictorial, more “romantic” than the others, is of a dappled Frisian grey, with a long, beautifully brushed tail and a braided and beribboned mane. The Neighing Horse and its companion are in a state of nature; The Cropped Horse is for riding, The Plough Horses, no longer in the prime of life, have been put to work; and The Worn-out Horse, in poor shape, lingers near a dead companion, while two scavenging dogs or wolves circle nearby.