Tag Archives | Hanoverian Creams

All kinds of updates

CreamHorse

I apologize for neglecting this blog this past month. My time has been almost completely absorbed in the final production work for the book. The good news is that the book is just a few weeks away from publication, though I am almost afraid to jinx it by saying so! What time hasn’t been spent on the book has gone towards a handful of print articles. This has all meant that the blog has languished simply because I couldn’t face writing anything more.

Which is a shame because I sure haven’t lacked for things to share. While I have been quiet, all manner of interesting things have been piling up on my desk and in my inbox. One of them is the picture at the top of this blog. I truly wanted to include it in the book, but I never heard back from the Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums regarding commercial usage of the image. They do allow non-commercial use, though, so I thought I would share it here on the blog. The reason I wanted it for the book is that I have a chapter on the now-extinct Hanoverian Creams. Those were the ceremonial carriage horses that were once used by British royalty, but are now extinct. They have long held a certain fascination for horse color researchers because their exact color is not known. The other mystery is what ever became of them. It is known that some of their Continental relatives ended up in the Wulff Circus, and that a handful of the British horses ended up with Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake. This image caught my eye because the horse has the same diluted coat with the very dark mane and tail that is seen in some of the later images of the Creams. But even more interesting, the photo is part of a group associated with Lord John Sanger’s circus. There is a connection between Sanger and Tyrwhitt-Drake, so it is quite plausible that this horse was one of the Creams, or was related to them. The photos are not dated, but the range from the other photos in the set are correct for the horses that were dispersed to have still be alive. If anyone recognizes the image and can place it or date it, I’d love to hear from them!

There have also been a couple of interesting horses that have come to light in just the last few weeks. The first is another white-born Standardbred recently foaled in New Jersey. Pictures of him can be seen here. Since both is sire Art Major and dam Coochie Mama are unmarked horses, he is quite likely a new dominant white mutation. Another suspected dominant white Standardbred, Macahan Loss, was born in 2008.

The other cool new horse is a confirmed silver dilute Pura Raza Espanola (PRE). That is the mare Trajana YR. She is actually chestnut, so the color is not visible on her, but she carries the gene. If she is bred to a bay or black horse she could produce a black or red silver (bay silver). Some readers might remember a few years ago there was a PRE stallion that was rumored to have been tested as a silver, but many questions were raised about his purity and his testing status. His owner stopped replying to questions (not that I can say I blame them, given the truly unpleasant tone that many took), and it became a dead end. Hopefully this mare puts an end to the debate over whether the gene is there or not.

Speaking of the silver dilution, I was able to get some really wonderful contrast shots a few weeks ago. The opportunity to have two visually similar, but genetically different, colors side-by-side only come up on rare occasions, so I was tickled to have gotten these shots. I haven’t had time to crop and size the photos, but eventually I will have those up on the blog. And I still have to post the “English translation” for the splash research, and some much-needed updates to the Splash Project page. And there are other cool things that just need to be sorted and composed. So like I said, there is a lot to share – just not enough hours in my days at the moment!

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Artistic liberties

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I am often amused by horse books – often those about colored horses – that point to old art work as proof that this or that color has a long history. Perhaps because I am an artist working in a field where success is often measured by the accuracy with which color can be rendered, I am all too familiar with how this can go wrong. It is a lot easier to be sure that the Pech Merle cave paintings portray appaloosas when you haven’t looked at many artist’s first attempts at painting a dapple grey!

I thought of this again when I was in Germany and came upon these illustrations from a 13th century book of love poetry. Why such pictures were hanging in the Medieval Torture Museum, right along with the comfy chair, I cannot guess!

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I suspect that the artists intended to depict dapple greys with most of these polka-dotted horses. Certainly that seems the most logical explanation for the blue ones at least. Just what the yellow ochre pony with the white dots is supposed to be is open to speculation. Is he a dappled palomino? Some kind of brownish horse turning grey? Or were dapples the crazy all those centuries ago, just as they once were with equine collectibles, so that they were added to just about any body color whenever the horse needed to be made more special? Were there thirteenth century equine art fans bemoaning the fact that the illuminators just couldn’t leave a plain color alone?

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Maybe that could explain the white dots on the very red horse in the background of this illustration, as well as those on the gray (mostly covered with trappings) and the taupe pony.

These pictures illustrate the problem with using art to assess horse color in distant times. Our modern perspective makes it tempting to say that the taupe pony is evidence that silver dapple must have existed in Germany at the time. It is a color we associate with ponies, and he does look small relative to his rider. Unlike the other horse in the same series, he is taupe and not golden brown. Yet he matches the brown on the ground, just as the previous one matches the falcons. It might mean nothing. Likewise the size of the rider relative to the horse might not be intentional, or might be used to indicate something other than the size of his mount. We can only guess.

All artists take liberties, and most are influenced by the conventions adopted by their colleagues. This can skew an entire era of work in such a way that it distorts reality. (When it was still published, The Boat has a wonderful set of articles on painting conventions prevalent in equine collectibles. Excerpts can be seen here, here and here.) A good example of this in historical equine art is the seventeenth and eighteenth century depiction of horse form.

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Cerbero by Johann Georg von Hamilton, 1725

Artists of that era tend to distort horses in a fairly predictable way. The accuracy and detail with which the color is rendered, however, is striking. (Note the cat tracks and the isolated roan patch on Cerbero, for instance.)

Yet even when horse color is rendered with such precision, it can be hard to know what liberties were taken – or what gaps in knowledge had to be filled in. That brings us back to yesterday’s post on the Royal Creams. Artists frequently painted the Creams. A print of this one hangs in the foyer of my home.

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Adonis by James Ward, 1826

Adonis is usually referred to as a Hanover White, which were bred alongside the Creams in the early days of the Royal Stud. In the painting he has blue-green eyes. Was that accurate? Part of why the nature of the dilution carried by the Creams has remained a mystery is that there are so many conflicting stories about their eye color, so the eye color on a horse like Adonis is particularly interesting. Did the artist know the eye color? The painting was made six years after the death of his owner, King George III, so it is possible that he was only working from descriptions. Maybe the color wasn’t important to anyone, and the artist just liked how the blue picked up the tones in the background.

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Beauty, another of King George III’s horses

Is that why this Cream, another stallion owned by King George III, has golden eyes? Certainly the artist took liberties with the size of the eyes, as many artists did at the time. Could he have done the same with the color?

As much as I love historical artwork, and find myself searching it for clues about historical colors, it is not an absolutely reliable witness.

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Royal Creams of Hanover

Creams

For the most part the upcoming book is about current breeds, but there were a few extinct ones that I couldn’t resist including because they were interesting in terms of color. One of those was the Royal Creams of Hanover. They are interesting because they were a remnant of the horses bred in the pre-stud book era, and also because their coloring remains a mystery. Were they double-diluted creams, champagnes or pearls – or something else entirely? I compiled as many accounts (and images) as I could and made some guesses in the book, but in fact no one really knows what they were. I suppose that is part of their allure for color researchers!

Recently I found this photograph of the horses in a Library of Congress archive. It was shot in London in June of 1911, so this would have been just shortly before the Crown Equerry determined that the remaining horses should be disbanded. The last of the Creams were dispersed in 1921, just ten years after the photo was taken. It was too late to include it in the section on the Creams, but I can share it here.

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