Antoine Pluvinel on horses

Anabaptist printer and publisher Crispijn de Passe was born in 1564 in Arnemuiden (Zeeland) in the Netherlands. He was educated in culturally vibrant Antwerp, the outstanding printing and graphic centre of sixteenth century Europe. There he started his artistic career. By 1585 at the latest, he became a member of the prominent Guild of St Luke and worked as an engraver for various publishing houses. When Catholic Spain conquered Antwerp in 1588, reducing this cosmopolitan centre to a stagnant religious backwater, Crispijn de Passe, like tens of thousands other intellectuals, fellow artists and craftsmen, left the city with his family. He went into exile in Cologne where he founded his own publishing house. He specialized in portraits and genre graphics which were destined both for the European and English markets. His work was in demand.

In 1611, Crispijn left Cologne for religious reasons and relocated his studio to Utrecht. There he teamed up with Aernout van Buchell (Buchelius) and continued his highly successful career. His sons continued in his footsteps, working on their own in Paris, London, and Copenhagen, and carrying the international fame of the De Passe studio with them. In 1623, Crispijn II produced a series of outstanding engravings for one of the classic seventeenth century work on the art of horse-riding. The author of the book was Antoine de Pluvinel. In its complete form Le maneige royal was published posthumously in 1625. It was edited by Pluvinel’s friend Menou de Charnizay, and given its definitive name L’Instruction du Roy en l’exercice de monter à cheval (Teaching the King how to ride a horse). The author had been riding instructor to Louis XIII.

Antoine de Pluvinel was born in Crest, Dauphiné, France, in 1555. He learned riding in Italy and was educated according to the Neapolitan school under Giovanni Pignatelli, who introduced the Italian style of horse-breaking with strict and forceful methods. Pluvinel, on the contrary, became a proponent of less brutal ways. His practice was based on understanding the character of the horse and motivating the animal’s cooperation through patience and praise. He applied subtle training methods, insisting that a horse moves more gracefully if he enjoys being ridden. The principles of the Neapolitan school of riding however did persist. One of the English noblemen who studied in Italy was William Cavendish, a nobleman and a royalist, who was obliged to live in exile after the defeat of Charles I. He was to become the first Duke of Newcastle and is credited with introducing school riding in England. Whilst in exile, he taught the schooling of horses in Antwerp and drew on his experiences of the disciplines of the Neapolitan School to publish A General System of Horsemanship in 1658.

In 1594, Pluvinel founded the Académie d’Équitation near to the place now known as the Place des Pyramides. There, the French nobility was trained not only in horsemanship, but also in all the refined accomplishments demanded of a gentleman (dancing, dressing, etiquette). Pluvinel’s influence on the aristocracy endured well into the seventeenth century. Richelieu, the future Prime minister of King Louis XIII was one of those who attended the Académie. Pluvinel’s book was a massive success. It was re-printed several times, and translated into many languages. He died on 24 August 1620 and is remembered and recognized by many as the ‘Father of French Horsemanship’.

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