The horse fair | Rosa Bonheur | 1855

The horse fair | Rosa Bonheur | 1855

The horse fair | Rosa Bonheur | 1855

The story of Bonheur has very interesting chapters.

She was born in Bordeaux, France, in the middle of a practicing Saint-Simonian family, which is a Christian-socialist sect that believed in the equalitarian education of men and women. They even expected a female messiah; moreso, all members of her family were artists and her father was friend with Francisco de Goya.

They sent little Rosa to school, but she had difficulties in writing. That’s why her mother, to help her, asked her to draw an animal for each letter of the alphabet. This constant practice would determine Bonheur’s future artistic career painting domestic animals.

She studied in several art schools and, in 1855, she ended The horse fair. Thanks to this one, she immediately gained international fame and recognition, which allowed her to meet Queen Victoria, a admirer of her work.

Is a huge painting, around 2,5 x 5m, where we see an auction for buying horses in the Boulevard l’Hôpital , in Paris; where Bonheur went twice a week to draw dressed like a man to avoid the attention from the traders.

Here we see a scene where there are horses displayed right to be sold. As the buyers are almost unnoticeable in the right side of the picture, the motif of the painting is the relation between people and animals or, let’s say, the relation between the civilized and wild worlds. Some of the characters are trying to tame the animals (far left); some quietly walk next to them (centre-left); there are some who fight them (center); and others, with more experience, can control 2 horses with no effort (centre-right). The scene is really dynamic; the horses and the dust make us feel the movement, contrary to the static of the trees and the spectators.

(Due that I study psychology, as a personal note, let me comment you that the silhouette of the building on the left is the Hospital la Salpêtrière, place where Freud began thinking his theories in psychoanalysis some years after Bonheur’s painting)

I personally think that the dark sky with clouds makes the painting glow. Like it makes it more alive… Although Rosa deserves a point less because, if the sky is that covered, the lightning of the horses and the projection of the shadows would have less intensity. Nevermind. I still like the painting very much.

Before, we noticed that Bonheur wore pants when she went painting. In the 19th century this was little less that outrageous. Our artist had to ask for permission to do it to the police prefect. Despite she explained that she only wore pants only because they were more comfortable, some say that she was gay, as she also lived until she died with a friend from her childhood, Nathalie Micas. Her sexual orientation remains a mystery, however, Bonheur, with her boldness, inspired future generations of woman rights movements.

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~ by Álvaro Mazzino on August 17, 2010.

10 Responses to “The horse fair | Rosa Bonheur | 1855”

  1. I have a very old print of Horse Fair. It appears to have been done in pencil or like a chalk of some sort. There is no date on the print, however the frame that the print is in also looks to be well over a 100 years old. I would like to know more about it.

  2. I have a picture of The Horse Fair I boughrt at an estate sale about 5 years ago. It has Rose Bonheur signature on the bottom left with the date as 1853.The frame is wood. Brown with gold hi-lights on it. The size I believe is 38″ X 18″ without the 2″ frame . How can I find out more about it and if it has any value? It is a wonderfull picture, and I love it.

  3. Sorry I meant her signature is on the right. Refer to question by me above.

    • Hello Eileen,
      It is truly amazing that you have an original drawing of Bonheur’s.
      What I recommend is that you take a HQ picture of the drawing and start contacting specialist to find the information you’re looking for.
      You can start with and then start contacting museums which have a collection of Bonheur’s paintings, such as the Musée d’Orsay. I think it would be the best approach…

  4. i have a large painting of the horse fair with the frame that is engraved the horse fair and artist name.Worth anything?

  5. I have what appears to be an 1800’s original print of the Horse Fair by Rosa Bonheur that was found among some other old prints in an antique trunk. The unusual aspect of this print is that it is 10″ x 22″ and the artwork is reversed which I understand is typical given the stone lithography technology of the time.

    I have images, f you would like to see please email..

  6. i have a print of the horse fair from eatons print dept with a brown light blue and gold frame i would like to know the year it was sold.. this is a really cool print..and is it vauleuble

  7. I have an old print /draft of the horse fair -looks like it was done in charcoal and has rosa bonheur signature on it in the bottom right hand corner. Don’t know if this helps but the frame details are H.M. Co., Frame No. 3866, pic No. 225. What would be the value of this?

  8. Years ago my great aunt gave me a print of The Horse Fair, She got it at school in 1906,when she was in the first grade.As A little girl ,I fell in love with the picture and I have it in my home today.I don’t know if it has any value or not

  9. Spot on with this write-up, I truly believe this site needs
    much more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read through more, thanks
    for the information!

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