Philip James De Loutherbourg

The Vision of the White Horse


Image released under

License this image

Not on display

Philip James De Loutherbourg 1740–1812
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1222 × 991 mm
frame: 1512 × 1292 × 142 mm
Purchased 1969

Display caption

In the last decade of the eighteenth century, the French Revolution, the ensuing wars and the approaching millennium sparked a new trend for apocalyptic subjects. Artists explored themes of destruction and divine judgement and the end of mankind.Here Loutherbourg shows the first two of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse: the ‘conquerer’ on a white horse, drawing a bow, and ‘War’ on a red horse, wielding a sword. With ‘Famine’ and ‘Death’, they ride out after the breaking of the first four seals of the Book of Judgement. Loutherbourg made this design for an illustrated Bible.

Gallery label, May 2007

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Catalogue entry

Philip James de Loutherbourg 1740–1812
Inscribed ‘P. l. de Loutherbourg R.A. 1798,’ b.c.
Canvas, 48⅛×39 (122.3×99).
Purchased from Mr Brian Sewell (Gytha Trust) 1969.
Coll: Thomas Macklin, sold Cox, Burrell and Foster, 5 May 1800 (73); ...; Sholto Vere Hare, sold J E Pritchard & Co. at Alva House, 23 September 1926 (388), bt. George Augustus Giblett; his son K G Giblett, sold Sotheby's 18 June 1969 (46), bt. Sewell.
Lit: T S R Boase ‘Macklin and Bowyer’ in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, XXVI, 1963, pp. 148–177.
Repr: The Holy Bible, Volume VII; The New Testament embellished with engravings from pictures and designs by the most eminent English Artists, 1800, engr. repr. facing Revelation XIX, 11, 12, (engr. J Landseer, dated 20 October 1800); E Hamilton. The English School, 1832, vol. I, part II, engr. repr.

This work was one of the paintings commissioned by Thomas Macklin for his illustrated Bible, which appeared in serial form between 1791 and 1800. Macklin held annual exhibitions of these paintings, together with those intended for his ‘Poets Gallery’, from 1788, but as there is no conclusive evidence for these exhibitions having been continued after 1794 it is not certain whether T1138, which was completed in 1798, was exhibited in this way.

While many prominent Academicians, including Reynolds, West and Fuseli, produced work for Macklin's Bible, de Loutherbourg was the dominant figure in the undertaking. Not only did he provide twenty-one of the seventy-two plates, but he also designed for each book of the Bible an opening and concluding vignette, whose cabalistic nature give ample evidence of his obsession with spiritualism and the occult (William T Whitley, Artists and their Friends in England 1700–1799, 1928, Il, pp. 354–6). There appears to be some confusion about the precise passage illustrated by T1138. Although published by Macklin as representing the ‘Vision of the White Horse’ from Revelation XIX, 11, 12, it fits more closely with the description of the opening of the first and second seals in Revelation VI, 2–4, where the white horse is followed by a red horse, and the rider carries a bow instead of having a sword issuing from his mouth as he does in the other vision. It seems unlikely that such an attentive student of the scriptures as de Loutherbourg would have made an error of this nature. Possibly the title of the illustration was altered by Macklin to fit in with the sequence of installments of his Bible.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1968-70, London 1970

You might like

In the shop