The Pharoah's Horses
by Christopher Chouinard
The story of Pharaoh’s Horses begins with the puzzling existence of two nearly identical paintings. One version is by a well-known British painter, the other by an unknown artist. Which painting is older? Is it the version by the famous Brit? Or could it be the unsigned painting discovered at a Missouri flea market in the fall of 1987?
The widely circulated image, Pharaoh’s Horses, is based on an 1848 painting by British sporting and animal painter John Fredrick Herring Sr. As a young man, Herring was a stagecoach driver in northern England. By the time of his death, in 1865, he was a highly successful artist known to King George IV and later Queen Victoria. In the British art journal of the time, Pharaoh’s Horses was listed as one of Herring’s most popular images. The image found its way into many American and European homes by the late-1800s as a mezzotint engraving. His painting is a circular composition of three white, charging Arabian horses. This painting was thought to be the oldest rendition of Pharaoh’s Horses when it auctioned at Christie’s in London for $445,500 in 1986.
This image became a back piece and chest piece staple in the tattoo business from the turn of the twentieth century up to the 1950s. One of the earliest examples of Pharaoh’s Horses is from Gus Wagner