George StubbsHorse Frightened by a Lion ?exhibited 1763

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George Stubbs (1724‑1806)
Horse Frightened by a Lion
Date ?exhibited 1763
MediumOil paint on canvas
Dimensionsunconfirmed: 705 x 1019 mm frame: 885 x 1208 x 85 mm
Acquisition Purchased with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund and the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1994
On display at Tate Britain
Room: 1760


The dramatic theme of a lion attacking a horse is one of the most important in Stubbs's art and one which preoccupied him for over thirty years. It admirably combined his legendary anatomical precision as an animal painter with the heroic action, drama and sentiment required of the elevated genre of History Painting.

The original inspiration for the theme seems to have been a famous antique sculpture, the Capitoline group of a lion devouring a horse, which Stubbs probably saw on his visit to Rome in 1754. From the marble's initial inspiration Stubbs developed the theme by making it episodic, imagining the scenes which must have preceded the horse's inevitable death. In about eighteen works in various media - including oils, enamels, engravings and relief models - he depicted the horse first scenting the lion's approach, then recoiling from the confrontation, then agonised as the lion leaps upon its back and, finally, in the fourth episode, devoured by the lion… (read more)

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