Banksy's Sprung Horse

Year: 2006
Medium: Oil
Dimensions: 61 x 54cm
Signed/Unsigned: Signed
This work by Banksy depicts an army officer mounted not on a battle steed but a child's rocking horse.Sprung Horse © Banksy 2006
Joe Syer

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Known for his elusive identity and poignant street art, Banksy's work often blurs the lines between political activism and artistic expression. Sprung Horse, a captivating original oil painting created in 2006, is no exception; characteristically Banksy, this piece combines unexpected juxtapositions and bold political motifs to critique notions of authority and power. At the heart of Sprung Horse lies Banksy's signature technique of combining sharp political commentary with whimsical imagery. Through the depiction of an army officer mounted not on a battle steed but a child's rocking horse, Banksy ingeniously mocks the pomposity and absurdity often associated with military power and authority.

Sprung Horse: Meaning and Analysis

The artwork portrays an army officer in lavish attire, his uniform a clear symbol of power and dominion, while the subject engages in the innocuous act of riding a toy horse. This choice of imagery serves to diminish the gravity typically attributed to figures of authority, suggesting a critique of the performative aspects of power – especially in the United Kingdom. The officer, while adorned in traditional symbols of command, finds himself atop a mere simulacrum of a horse, a child’s rocking toy on springs, underscoring the often superficial nature of authoritative posturing. Executed in 2006, Sprung Horse is a testament to Banksy's dexterity with the oil medium, a departure from his usual stencilled street art. In his characteristic way, the piece showcases his ability to convey complex ideas through simple and striking visuals, but also highlights his versatility as an artist capable of crossing boundaries between street art and traditional gallery spaces and mediums. This work exemplifies Banksy's enduring fascination with themes of power, violence, and discipline, as well as his penchant for upending conventional representations of authority.

Sprung Horse is a notable example of Banksy's foray into the world of traditional painting, offering a unique perspective on the artist's vast and varied body of work. Unlike his ephemeral street pieces, which are often subject to the whims of public and private intervention, this oil painting invites collectors to engage with Banksy's art in a more enduring form. As such, this work also presents a compelling opportunity for collectors to own a piece of the artist's exploration into power dynamics, rendered with his characteristic wit and visual flair. It encapsulates Banksy's unparalleled ability to weave together humour, critique, and artistry. This original oil painting is framed in a cheap gold frame haphazardly painted in black, another powerful commentary on the absurdity of authority, executed with the artist's trademark ingenuity and insight. By transforming an iconic symbol of power—the horse—into a child's plaything, Banksy invites viewers to question the foundations of power and authority.

Sprung Horse invites viewers to reconsider the foundations and legitimacy of power, framed in an intentionally modest setting that echoes the artwork’s message about the absurdity of authority.”

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

Toy Horses in Banksy’s Oeuvre: A Motif Against the Glorification of the Military

Sprung Horse is not Banksy’s first depiction of the military horse motif in a provocative way. Within his oeuvre, both Sprung Horse and Pantomime Horse emerge as critical commentaries on the glorification of the militarisation of Britain, sharing a thematic synergy that underscores the artist's mastery of satire and subversion. Both works employ the horse—a symbol historically intertwined with martial prowess and national pride—to dissect and ridicule the ostentatious display of military strength and authority. Through the ironic use of contrasts, Banksy transforms this potent symbol into vehicles of critique; the former, by placing a dignified military figure atop a child's rocking horse, and the latter, likely through the absurdity inherent in the pantomime horse, a comedic representation that undercuts solemnity with silliness. These artworks mirror each other in their aim to expose the constructed nature of military grandeur, employing humour and paradox to invite reflection on the discrepancies between the performative aspects of military valour and its real-world implications. In doing so, Banksy underscores the absurdity underlying the glorification of militarism but also prompts a broader contemplation on the role of symbols and their manipulation in the perpetuation of power.

While Sprung Horse uses the incongruity of a dignified figure performing an inherently juvenile act to question the very foundations of authority and martial valour, Pantomime Horse similarly engages with themes of militarism through the lens of satire and absurdity inherent to the pantomime horse—a costume that requires two individuals to create a comic representation of a horse. This imagery could be interpreted as a metaphor for the performative and constructed aspects of military might, where the spectacle of power often obscures the collaborative and human elements underneath. Both artworks, therefore, while unique in their execution, converge on a critical view of Britain's military glorification. Through these pieces, Banksy challenges viewers to reconsider the pomp and circumstance of military tradition, highlighting the disconnect between the glorified images of war and the reality of martial engagement.

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