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This aptly named Circus Horse from the Le Portel Cave in Ariege, France is part of what is known as the Horses Gallery. It is part of a gallery that combines a dozen horses and three bovines.  It is believed they were painted during the Middle or Late Magdalenian period. In this particular cave there is also a Bison gallery.

According to Andre Leroi-Gourhan bison and horses “are opposite and complementary symbols”. At the end of the Horses gallery the passage narrows and there are several painted horses present. The mane of this horse has been damaged due to humans touching the cave walls. This horse was named Circus Horse because of its front legs which are raised. The horse seems to be in motion. It has only one hind leg, no hooves. This skilled artist mastered various techniques from linework flow to smudging to create the horse’s fur on his back and belly.

What is interesting about this horse rendition is how the lines flow and intersect creating “M” and “V” shaped lines. The horse’s head has little detail being represented by two lines. The mane has three lines and inches downwards towards the shoulder girdle. A double line outlines the chest.

This painting began by texturing the printmaking paper and covering the horse image with a thin rice paper veil which I serrated at the edges.

Cave Art – Jean Clottes p. 260