"The Arab and his Steed", Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1872.
This is such a sad painting. It really is. But not only is it a sad painting, it’s a beautiful depiction of a tragedy in an ordinary man’s life. It’s like a story, and Jean-Léon has painted a very emotional scene - a scene most people in the world can relate to.
If I were to make a wild guess on where this scene takes place, I’d say the Sinai desert in Egypt. The mountains are rather similar to the Sinai desert (I’ve been there 8 - 10 times, so I recognize them quite easily), and Gérôme has painted at least one other scene from Egypt (as well as several other paintings from Turkey).
Anyway, the Sinai desert is a really hot place. The sun is shining every day, and there are few places to find water. And in this scenery - this landscape - where shadows are non-existent (apart from the shadow you cast yourself), the Arab man and his horse were walking. Maybe they were going home after a long journey, or maybe the journey just were about to start. Who knows, maybe they were best friends. We can’t see the Arab man’s face, but maybe he was a very young man. In the Arab culture, horses and camels have traditionally been (and are) regarded as great companions. Great friends. The animals will understand when humans can’t understand.
I think anyone who’s ever loved an animal is able to imagine the love he felt for his horse. And Gérôme certainly understood this.
The man was probably walking in front of his horse (as his other belongings have been thrown in front of it), but as he heard his horse collapse it only took him a split second to drop all his belongings and run back to his horse. And what we see here is the last embrace. The horse can’t be saved, and there is no one nearby who can save it. So the Arab man knows all too well that when his horse is dead, he will have to leave it. He can’t take it with him, as it would be impossible to carry. So, the man would literally be forced to leave his best friend in the desert. The unloving desert where the sun shines every day, and no shadow can be found.
So if this painting isn’t like a story, then I don’t know what is.
Reception of the Grand Condé at Versailles following his victory at Seneffe. The Grand Condé advances towards Louis XIV in a respectful manner with laurel wreaths on his path, while captured enemy flags are displayed on both sides of the stairs. It marked the end of Condé’s exile, following his participation to the Fronde.