A Young Cavalier Executing a Levade, c. 1645
oil on canvas
96 x 153 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 14810)
Jordaens was commissioned to create designs for a set of tapestries on the subject of horsemanship. This is one of the models, from which a cartoon – a scaledup copy on paper – would have been made to guide the weaving of the much larger tapestry. This process is inherently collaborative, involving assistants, who helped paint the models and produce the cartoons, and upon tapestry weavers. However, Jordaens
paid particular attention to this painting, and it is entirely autograph. It is so finely composed and finished, that it transcends its function as a model, and Jordaens returned to it after the cartoon had been made, adding the statue of Neptune, creator of the horse.
A levade is an exercise in which the horse is made to raise its forelegs and chest and hold the position. The painting shows a young man executing this manoeuvre, watched over by his family and the gods Mercury and Mars – suggesting the noble and military associations of control and discipline.