A Young Cavalier Executing a Levade in the Presence of Mars and Mercury, c. 1645
oil on canvas
96 x 153 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 14810)
This painting was the "modello" - a work presented to patrons prior to receiving a commission - for a tapestry in a series on horsemanship. The cavalier performs a levade, where the horse must support its weight on its hindquarters and hold the position for several seconds. According to astrological theories of the time, the planets influenced the character, form, and colour of horses. The gods, after whom the planets were named, govern the horses here: Mars, dressed in armour, watches the performance of the proud chestnut; Mercury, holding the caduceus, the wand with serpents, minds the vigorous, white horse; and Neptune, the creator and patron of the horse, appears as a statue, trident in hand, on the façade of the building.