Tiny Horse Art
Horses on Stamps
Stamp collecting has been a hobby of many for over a century and a half.
It started not long after the issuance in 1840 of the world's first postage stamp - Great Britains famous One Penny Black. Some collectors collect stamps from all over the world, some from a single country or several counties.
Up until the late 19th century, most stamps portrayed dead white guys, kings, queens, or national heroes. Around the end of the 19th century other subjects began to be pictured on stamps, including horses.
"Tiny horse art" could be considered as stretching it a bit as a good gift idea. But if your horse lover also happens to be a stamp collector, or you're just a bit curious about the subject - read on!
A large number of stamp collectors collect by topic or theme rather than by country. These topical collectors may collect only stamps picturing ships, or trains, maps or famous people or events, birds or butterflies or flowers. Many collect stamps portraying animals; cats, dogs, hedgehogs, or of immediate interest, horses.
While it is not terribly difficult to put together a collection of all the stamps ever issued picturing hedgehogs (the total being less than 20), assembling a collection of all the stamps ever issued picturing horses would be. All told, since around 1900 over 70 countries have issued stamps portraying horses or relatives of horses. Nearly 5,000 different stamps have been issued showing horses!
Not all stamps picturing horses are necessarily attractive - no matter how much you love horses. Most are OK of course. Probably less than 5 per cent would qualify as "fine art" including the fabulous set of stamps issued by Austria to commemmorate the 400th Aniversary of the Spanish Riding School.
Shown clockwise from upper-right: Piaffe, At the Long rein, Corbette, Capriole, Levant, Spanish Steps
The stamps issued in the 1930's by Tannu Tuva hold a special place in many collector's hearts and included, among other scenes, a Horse and Rider and a Zeppelin (something that size would certainly make a horse rear up!)
Horses pictured on stamps include:
- extinct species, the Prsewalski Horse, and contemporary breeds from the Arabian, Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred to the Icelandic Pony and Norwegian Fjord, and practically everything in between
- mythological horses; Sun Horses, Unicorns, Centaurs, and Pegasus - to name a few
- horses in legend and literature from Don Quixote's horse Rosinante to Walt Disney characters
plow horses, pack horses, horses under saddle, war horses
hunting, jumping, steeplechase, racing, harness racing, polo, chariot racing, and dressage have all been featured, along with circus horses
- horse toys, chess pieces (knights), carousel horses and, stretching things a bit - sea horses
Stamps from different countries often depict uses of the horse common or perhaps unique to that country's culture or history.
and the list goes on.
- Afghan stamps have portrayed the wild sport of Buzkashi; also the Przewalski Horse
- A number of stamps from Argentina depict equestrian statues of national heroes
- Australian issues include racehorses, brumbies, show jumping, and an illustration from the classic The Man from Snowy River
- Austria shows everying from stagecoaches to race horses, to equestrian statues and, of course pays tribute to the Spanish Riding School with pictures of horses performing the Spanish walk, levade, and capriole
- in 1935, Canada issued an attractive stamp showing a Mountie on horseback.
Later issues include a RCMP musical ride, a painting by George Catlin, and a wild horse race from The Calgary Stampede
- an especially beautiful issue from Denmark shows the Bache Painting A String of Horses Outside an Inn.
- Among the many beautiful horse stamps from France are featured the Bayeux tapestry and the Marcus Aurelius equestrian statue plus a number of famous paintings depicting horses
- there are many equestrian statue and horse racing issues from Germany; a stamp was issued in 1978 showing a fossil of eohippus, and one of the more attractive issues is from 1987 showing wild horses in the Merfelder Bruch nature preserve
- Greece treats us to both the historical and mythical, with stamps portraying Alexander and Bucephalus, Bellerophon and Pegasus and a cloaked horseman in procession from the Great Friese of the Parthenon
Iceland of course has issued several stamps showing the Icelandic Pony while the Norwegians have issued several stamps depicting native breeds including the fabulous Fjord Horse
- many issues of the United States depict horses, though not always as the central figure; but stamps have been issued showing the Pony Express rider, paintings by Russell and Remington, horse drawn wagons and carriages, toy horses. A 1979 issue shows an equestrian event in honor of the 1980 Olympic Games. In 1985 a quartet of stamps picturing the Quarter Horse, Morgan, Saddlebred, and Appaloosa
- in the 1930's, Uruguay issued a long series of attractive airmail stamps picturing Pegasus Uruguay Pegasus (1935) All the stamps have this design but in different denominations and colors.
These airmails have become a classic and very few collectors own or can afford the complete set which as become quite scarce.
While not all horse stamps are attractive, some are tiny jewels of art. The aforementioned German wild horse issue was produced by the photogravure process and resembles a miniature painting, while the Austrian Spanish Riding Schools stamps issue highlight the fine hand of a master engraver.
Another example of fine engraving is shown below. Here are several beautiful stamps from a set issued in 1945 by Austria whose love of horses is evident here.
If your horse lover is a stamp collector, a packet of 25 to 100 stamps portraying horses would make an inexpensive gift that would provide hours of pleasure.
I've been a stamp collector for most of my life and have more than a few portraying horses which I've share with you here.
For the serious collector of horses on stamps we can recommend a copy of the American Topical Association's Handbook #116 - "Philatelic Horses and Horse Relatives"; which provides a comprehensive listing of (most) all horse stamps ever issued.
You can contact the ATA through their website at www.americantopicalassn.org.
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