Banksy's Horse On Steel

Medium: Spray Paint
Dimensions: 45 x 24.5cm
Last Hammer: £22,000 (Bonhams, 2007)
Signed/Unsigned: Unsigned
Banksy's Horse On Steel. A spray paint work on steel of a horse with praying hands.Horse On Steel © Banksy
Joe Syer

Joe Syer, Co-Founder & Specialist[email protected]

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Few figures stir as much intrigue and debate as the enigmatic Banksy. Horse On Steel, an unsigned piece, stands as a testament to his unyielding commitment to social and political commentary through the medium of street art. Executed with his signature stencil technique on an unconventional steel canvas, this work reveals the realms of the sacred and the profane, challenging the viewer's perceptions of religious iconography and authority. With its eerie and blasphemous undertones, Horse On Steel is not merely an artwork but a provocative statement on the role of religion in the modern world, encapsulating Banksy's anti-establishment ethos with striking visual and thematic potency.

Horse On Steel: Meaning & Analysis

Banksy's Horse On Steel emerges as a commentary wrapped in a visage of subversion and satire, revealing the artist's adeptness in wielding the urban canvas to reflect on societal, religious, and philosophical dilemmas. This piece, executed with spray paint on a steel background, transcends its immediate visual impact to explore deeper thematic concerns, primarily the critique of religious iconography and the role of faith in the modern epoch.

The central figure of the artwork, an anamorphic horse head veiled in what appears to be a saintly mantle, is immediately striking for its incongruity. Banksy employs this jarring imagery to challenge the sanctity of religious figures, replacing the revered visage of the Virgin Mary or a holy saint with that of a domesticated animal. The veil and the posture of prayer attributed to the horse not only parody the traditional representations of sanctity but also imbue the piece with a layer of eerie sanctimoniousness. This deliberate combination of the sacred and the profane invites viewers to re-evaluate their perceptions of divinity and devotion.

The inclusion of human hands in a posture of prayer beneath the horse's head further complicates the narrative. This juxtaposition serves as a critique of blind faith and the unthinking adherence to religious dogma, symbolised by the bit still fastened around the horse's mouth. Banksy's choice of the horse, a creature domesticated and controlled by humans, as a stand-in for religious figures, is a metaphor for the manipulation of faith and the reduction of divine figures to mere instruments of control and obedience.

The artist's use of a steel background adds another layer of meaning, suggesting the cold, unyielding nature of both the material and the institutions it critiques. The industrial, impermanent medium of spray paint, traditionally associated with graffiti and urban decay, contrasts sharply with the eternal and transcendent aspirations of religious art. This choice of medium reflects Banksy's broader critique of societal structures, including the institutions of religion, and their dwindling influence in the face of modernity's relentless march.

“This image parodies revered religious figures by replacing them with a domesticated animal, encouraging viewers to question the sanctity of religious iconography through manipulation.”

Joe Syer
Joe Syer,Co-Founder & Specialist,MYArtbroker

Reflections on Banksy's Horse On Steel

Horse On Steel’s engagement with religious iconography, particularly its subversion of traditional symbols, speaks to a larger narrative of disenchantment with institutional authority. In replacing the figure of the Virgin Mary or a saint with that of a horse, Banksy not only questions the constructs of divinity but also reflects on the evolving nature of belief in the secular age. This gesture, steeped in irony and satire, forces a reconsideration of the objects and figures we hold sacred, challenging viewers to confront the foundations of their faith and the role of religious institutions in shaping societal values.


Horse On Steel’s engagement with religious iconography, particularly its subversion of traditional symbols, speaks to a larger narrative of disenchantment with institutional authority. In replacing the figure of the Virgin Mary or a saint with that of a horse, Banksy not only questions the constructs of divinity but also reflects on the evolving nature of belief in the secular age. This gesture, steeped in irony and satire, forces a reconsideration of the objects and figures we hold sacred, challenging viewers to confront the foundations of their faith and the role of religious institutions in shaping societal values.

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