Saint-Malo, France is located on the Northern coast of Brittany and has a long history of overseas adventures, exploration, and of course, piracy. Saint-Malo eventually became a wealthy French port city over the centuries, allowing for such leisure activities as horse displays, including parading and racing. It is thought that horse racing on the beaches was taking place by at least the early 1800s in Saint-Malo. The oil on canvas painting seen here is a fantastic depiction of such an event during the 1840s.
A giltwood frame with thick cavetto molding surrounds the colorful and vivacious scene. In the center of the painting, jockeys ride galloping horses between two flagpoles. There is a definitive international flair, with flags ranging from French to Swedish affixed to a judges’ platform on the side.
In the foreground, a procession of petite noblesse arrives, led by a quartet of well-dressed gentlemen on horseback. Two carriages follow, one blue and one green, each led by a team of two horses. Soldiers dressed in blue overcoats and red pants walk the grounds with a leashed dog in tow as a woman in a long, deep blue dress rides by with a green train flowing from her black hat. A sea of spectators gathers behind the judges, lined against the wall surrounding the city. Some enterprising fans are perched atop pruned trees beneath the wall as well. A blue sky filled with white fluffy clouds fills the background, above even more spectators lining the balconies of buildings behind the wall. The wall extends further down the beach, in front of cream colored houses and windmills at the end of the city. At over three and a half feet wide, this 19th century painting of horse racing on the beaches of Saint-Malo will make a fascinating topic of discussion.
CONDITION: Good antique condition with craquelure and minor nicks and losses to the giltwood frame. Based on faint markings in the lower right hand corner that have been painted over, the painting is at least from 1843. The back is not rigged for hanging purposes. Please see photos for details.