formerly attributed to John Constable

The Leaping Horse

Oil paint on wood
Support: 175 x 229 mm
Bequeathed by E.J. Blaiberg 1970

Catalogue entry

T01240 The Leaping Horse

Oil on panel, 6 13/16×9 (17×22.8).
Prov: ...; G.B. Homewood, from whom bought by Colnaghi's 1934; E.J. Blaiberg by 1937 (when lent to the Tate Gallery) and bequeathed by him to the Tate Gallery 1970. Accession No T01240.
Exh: Tate Gallery 1937 (not in catalogue); Tate Gallery 1971(101).
Lit: Shirley 1937, p.181; Hoozee 1979, No.450 (queried).

Although acquired as a preliminary study for ‘The Leaping Horse’ of 1825 (Royal Academy of Arts, London, TG 1976 No.238, H.452), No.46 now seems more likely to be a copy by a later hand of Constable's full-size sketch for the work (Fig.1, V.&A., R.286, TG 1976 No.236, H.451).1 It is difficult to believe that Constable was responsible for the unstructured tree mass at the left, the ill-defined foreground area, the crudely repeated diagonal accents or the dull colour and handling, which suggest little pleasure in the act of painting. Nos.24 and (on a larger scale) 36 above are studio sketches of the sort No.46 purports to be and they reveal none of these inadequacies.

The red reins given to the horse in No.46 are peculiar and may be a misreading of the red fringe of the horse blanket Constable introduced in the full-size sketch and the final picture. This decorative covering is itself an oddity but one which was accounted for by David Lucas, who noted that Constable elaborated the horse's trappings in this way because he wanted a spot of red to offset the greens of the picture (JC:FDC, p.58). The timbers in the bottom left of No.46 may also represent a misunderstanding of the full-size sketch. Constable based this detail on a drawing in his 1813 sketchbook (V.&A., R.121, p.76), which leaves no doubt that the structure is composed of three posts all in the same plane. In No.46 this detail seems to have become a box-like construction of four posts.

Constable's full-size sketch for ‘The Leaping Horse’ was lent to the V.&A. (or South Kensington Museum, as it was then known) by Henry Vaughan in or before 1862 and has been more or less continuously on view there ever since. Several early copies of it survive, including one of similar size to No.46 (exh. Tate Gallery 1971 but not in catalogue) and one by C.R.Leslie's son Robert (repr. C.R.Leslie, ed. Robert C. Leslie, Life and Letters of John Constable, R.A., 1896, facing p.175).

1. Oil on canvas, 51×74 (129.4×188).

Published in:
Leslie Parris, The Tate Gallery Constable Collection, London 1981