I've been studying (or more exactly being dazzled by) the illustrations in a magnificent four-pound coffee-table extravaganza called The Horse From Cave Paintings to Modern Art. It was first published in France (Cheval dans l'art) in 2008 and came to me through the Abbeville Press on Varick Street in NYC and also through the generosity of our local public library (it's too expensive to purchase). The history of the horse in art begins with the Chauvet Cave and includes thousands of years of wonders. But I don't write merely to extol the book, however great it be.
I call it to your attention because I have a birthday coming up soon and any number of my friends and relatives and readers of this blague have been asking me what I would like as a gift. This book has given me a few ideas. At the outset I'd like to say that I'm not really interested in the monumental paintings that fill most of the pages of the book: battle scenes, hunting scenes, royal processions. Not my cup of tea. Besides the fact that they are too large for the condo, most of them are a little on the pretentious side, and frankly. I don't think they'd work with our understated decor.
However, I'd like to suggest that friends, relatives and constant readers might want to pool their pennies and present me with one of the smaller, more discreet objects.
My first choice:
It's known as the Chariot of the Sun sculpture. It's bronze with a little bit of gold leaf and was found a hundred years ago in a Danish bog, where it had apparently sat for about 3500 years. It might be a little the worse for wear but I don't mind. At three feet long and two feet high it would sit nicely on the dining room table. No longer bog-bound, it presently resides in the National Museet in Copenhagen but I'm sure the museum would entertain a reasonable offer. I think you can assume that unlike the callous Danes, I would treat the sculpture right and not stick it a swamp somewhere.
If the Chariot of the Sun is unavailable, or the Museet (the phone number for the "butikken" is 33 47 38 30) proves to be sticky to deal with, I have another suggestion. It's not as good, but good enough.
It's Charlemagne. A ninth-century bronze equestrian statuette. The picture is misleading because the statuette is only nine inches tall, which makes it just right for a window sill or the top of one of the stereo speakers. The rendering of the emperor himself is a little stiff, and the sword that should be in his right hand is missing, but the horse, imitating Roman models, is pretty damn good. Charlemagne and his horsey are in the Louvre just waiting for an offer. The statuette is so small that it shouldn't cost much.
And please, friends, no tacky reproductions.