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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. 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.

October 2013