Von Reitern und Scheitern - visuelle Ordnung, politische Figur und reiterliche Praxis in der Frühen Neuzeit


  • Isabelle Schürch




This paper explores the productive gap between riding as visual image of power and as a practical skill. By taking Sébastien Bourdon’s equestrian portrait of Queen Christina of Sweden as a starting point, I will try to set out the space for challenging (modern) presuppositions readily made about riding skills in pre-modern times. Christina of Sweden proves to be a case in point for a leading figure that used gendered visual imagery to create a complex compound of representational skills, practical competence and media knowledge. Riding, or rather the art of riding and horse-handling as culture equestre, became a most distinctive characteristic of early modern male nobility. Christina’s skilful deployment of contemporary political and visual means sets her off as what could be termed a female king. At the same time, riding was in Christina’s times surprisingly often the cause of severe accidents and untimely princely deaths. My argument is that these two dimensions of riding – as discursive and visual image of success on the one hand, and as practice competence prone to failure on the other hand – can be brought into fruitful tension.