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Studio of Philips Wouwerman, Cavalry attacking Infantry

Key facts
Full title Cavalry attacking Infantry
Artist Studio of Philips Wouwerman
Artist dates 1619 - 1668
Date made 1656-68
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 33.4 × 63.1 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876
Inventory number NG976
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Cavalry attacking Infantry
Studio of Philips Wouwerman

Philips Wouwerman was famous in his time for his skill at depicting horses in many different situations – at rest in the stable, being shod in the forge, out hunting or, as here, in the frenzy of battle. In what is a relatively small painting – not by Wouwerman himself but produced in his studio – the artist has crammed in at least 14 of them, charging, stumbling, tumbling and wheeling across the canvas.

Despite this crowded field, more than half the picture is taken up with a smoke-filled sky, used to underscore this frozen moment of violence, with a series of dramatic silhouettes of swords, flags, guns and rearing horses.

Wouwerman’s war paintings did not usually depict identifiable conflicts, but another version of this picture (State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg) has been described as a battle between Poles and Swedes. The horsemen advancing from the left have red flags, coats, hats or capes – a colour associated with Poland – while their opponents, apparently in retreat, seem to wear the blue of Sweden. The two countries were at war from 1655 to 1660.

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