“Horse and His Master” statue

The Grade II-listed hollow bronze statue in Malvern Park is by notable Victorian sculptor Joseph Edgar Boehm (1834-1890) and was cast by H. Young & Co., Pimlico. Boehm was born in Austria to Hungarian parents but settled in England in 1862 and became a British subject three years later. He became the favourite sculptor of the Royal Family. The Horse and His Master statue was created in 1874 and from c.1904-1953 it stood on the lawn in front of Tudor Grange (as pictured above c.1910) before its removal to Malvern Park.

It is believed that the correct title of the statue is “The Horse and His Master,” which is the name under which it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1874 (catalogue number 1520). It was also exhibited at the Paris Exposition of 1878. The sculpture was one of three of Boehm’s important large sculptures known as “ambitious ideal Sculpture” that he produced in the early- to mid-1870s. It was apparently an enlarged version of a bronze statuette – Cart Stallion and Groom – which Boehm exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1869 (catalogue number 1199). There are minor differences between the statuette and the Horse and His Master, notably the replacement of the groom’s rustic corduroys for more scant clothing.

In a speech at the Royal Academy banquet on Saturday 2nd May 1874, in advance of the opening of the exhibition to the public on 4th May, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) said:

In… the Lecture room is a statue of a horse and his master, by Boehm, which I am confident all those who take an interest in sculpture will agree with me is one of the finest pieces of sculpture of modern times.

Daily News, 4 May 1874

A detailed description appeared in the Illustrated London News, which said the statue was “the most remarkable work.”

This immense group, for which it was necessary to find a place in the Lecture-Room, was doubtless intended to be on the scale of nature; but the man being below average height, the contrast between him and the animal, enormous as is the bulk of the kind of horse in question, is rather too great. The horse is a stallion of the breed derived, we believe, from Flanders and Normandy, and developed with us into the elephantine Suffolk punch – and other special breeds. By representing him as rearing on his hind legs, the spirit and likewise the vast bulk and gigantic strength of the creature are displayed to advantage; whils his “master” is proportionately reduced to comparative insignificance. Yet the man is modelled quite as ably as the horse; while the two form a group evincing close observation and (within the sculptor’s intention) plastic power and technical mastery in a high degree.

Illustrated London News, Saturday 20th June 1874

We don’t know where the statue was between 1874 and around 1904 when it was acquired by the Bird family and brought to Tudor Grange, so if you have any information, please let us know.

It was purchased by Captain Oliver Bird for £300 when the contents of his late father’s estate were sold in April 1944 following the death of Eleanor Frances, Dowager Lady Bird and widow of Sir Alfred Bird.

Captain Bird expressed his intention at the time of purchase of presenting it to Solihull Council for erection in a local park. It took some time for the statue to be relocated and the Birmingham Daily Gazette reported in 1953 that Council workmen charged with the task of removing the sculpture were encountering difficulties:

Made on the Continent, it has been given to the people of the area by Captain Oliver Bird, one of Sir Alfred’s sons. It is planned to re-site it in Brueton Park. But the statue is life-size – and made of bronze. In addition to its great weight, the concrete base in which it has been set for many years is resisting all attacks.

Birmingham Daily Gazette – Monday 23rd November 1953

An unveiling ceremony to in Malvern Park took place on 15th December 1953.

The “Horse of Tamar” and other names

There is a suggestion that the statue is properly entitled “The Horse of Tamar” but this is likely to be a corruption of the descriptive “Horse and Horse Tamer”, which is how it was frequently described.

It appears as the “Horse and Horse Tamer” in the book Public Sculpture of Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull by George T. Noszlopy (published 2003), published as part of the University of Central England Public Sculpture Project.

The original listing also referred to it as “The Horse and Horse Tamer Group” although the listing was updated in April 2021 to the correct title of “The Horse and His Master.”

Historic newspaper articles also refer to the sculpture as “The Prancing Horse and Man.”

Damage

Part of the horse’s tail, right foreleg and hoof were removed by metal thieves on 16th February 2012. Repair costs were estimated at £90,000 and Solihull Council appealed for public contributions towards the £15,000 insurance excess.

Local artist, Nicholas Logan, created a work of art which he donated to help raise funds for the statue’s repair.

Further Reading

The life and work of Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm by Mark Andrew Stocker, 1986 (page 305)

Solihull statue vandalised by metal thieves

ArtUK entry

© Solihull Council, 2022.
You are welcome to link to this article, but if you wish to reproduce more than a short extract, please email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: