James Ward
The Moment 1831

Artwork details

James Ward 1769–1859
The Moment
Date 1831
Medium Oil paint on wood
Dimensions Support: 367 x 466 mm
frame: 510 x 605 mm
Acquisition Purchased 1982
On display at Tate Britain
Room: 1810

Display caption

This painting of a huge snake about to attack a white horse was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1833. In the past, the painting was thought to show Napoleon’s Arab charger, Marengo – hence the title ‘Marengo and the Serpent’ on the frame. However, it is more likely to show George III’s horse, Adonis. Although he specialised in painting animals, Ward consistently used allegory in his paintings, so this work may be intended to show the power of the monarchy (the horse) being threatened by the government (the serpent) as it prepared to widen the franchise by passing the Great Reform Bill in 1832.

February 2016

About this artwork