Historical Portraits Picture Archive

William Duke of Newcastle (1592-1676) on horseback 1658

Abraham Van Diepenbeck 

William Duke of Newcastle (1592-1676) on horseback, Abraham Van Diepenbeck
Pen and ink and wash, paper
17th Century
6 8/10 x 5 7/10 inches 174 x 144mm
Diepenbeck, a pupil of Van Dyck, here depicts William Cavendish 1st Duke of Newcastle schooling his horse in a rearing movement known as a Courbette.

The importance of this drawing lies in the fact that it is associated with the first book on formal horsemanship in Britain, and Europe, which was unsuperceded for centuries. It relates to the illustrations that Diepenbeck produced for the Duke's great book ''La Methode Nouvelle pour dresser les Chevaux'' which he produced in exile in Antwerp during the Cromwellian Protectorate. This book has numerous plates by Diepenbeck illustrating the various paces, but drawings by Diepenbeck preparatory to the project are rare survivals. I can in fact think of only one other, which is less free than this example, which is in the British Museum.

The Duke was a pioneer of formal horsemanship and the Manege that he built at Bolsover Castle (which still survives) is the first riding school of modern design to be established in this country. Bolsover Castle appears in the background of a number of the plates, and in this drawing it is sketchily shown atop a mount in the distance.

Newcastle, known as ''The Loyal Duke'', fought for King Charles I in the Civil War until the defeat at Marston Moor - a battle he had advised against fighting - when he retired to Antwerp. It was there that he collaborated with Diepenbeck in producing ''La Methode Nouvelle pour dresser les Chevaux'', and where he plainly also became friends with the artist, as shown by a surviving drawing (British Museum) unrelated to the book in which Diepenbeck depicts a family entertainment at the Duke's house in Antwerp.

Much of the interest of the present drawing lies, therefore, in its rarity as a preparatory drawing for the Duke's great project, and in its documentary value as a sketch of the Duke performing one of the paces that he promoted. It is also, of course, an extremely accomplished and freely drawn sketch by a Van Dyck pupil, which even removed from its context would be an attractive and valuable work.
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