Man and the Horse
The Metropolitan Museum’s December, 1984 Costume Institute exhibition, which will be presented by Polo/Ralph Lauren, will be a celebration of man’s long association with the horse. Titled Man and the Horse, the exhibition will present an outstanding selection of clothing, riding accoutrements, paintings and sculpture from the Museum’s own collections as well as from public and private collections elsewhere in the United States and Europe.
Diana Vreeland, Special Consultant to The Costume Institute will once again oversee the organization of the exhibition. In commenting on its theme, Mrs. Vreeland noted: “The power, beauty and elegance of the horse have fascinated people across cultures and across centuries. A well-mounted rider moving as one with his horse has long symbolized the highest degree of accomplishment and sophistication and has set standards for the conduct of society as well as for elegance in dress. The assemblage of objects in the exhibition will focus on the central role of the horse in the development of style in fashion through a study of the many specific habits for riding, hunting, racing, polo and driving. It will emphasize the artistry and precision of tailoring.
“Riding apparel has been a strong influence on fashion at least from the 18th century when women began to adapt masculine styles for their own riding ensembles and then further utilized these elements of tailoring and decoration in their regular daywear. The fundamentals of the tailored suit for both men and women — such a basic part of a contemporary wardrobe can be traced directly to styles developed over the centuries to accommodate the horse and rider:•
Ralph Lauren noted, “The relationship of man and horse has always been a great source of inspiration for all of my collections. Traditional riding and classic sporting clothes are both elegant and highly functional, and I find in them energy and excitement. I am, therefore, very pleased to join Diana Vreeland and the Metropolitan Museum for this exhibition.”
The exhibition will also explore the splendor of the accoutrements associated with the horse — such as saddles, harnesses, tandems, pony carts — which conjure images of beautifully finished leathers, highly polished brasses, impeccable tailoring and rigorous attention to detail.
Implicit in the influence of the horse on fashion is the broader impact of the horse on many other aspects of life; splendid carriages will reflect the vital importance of transporation and habit for the hunt. Throughout the exhibition the artistry inspired by the horse will dominate and will emphasize the prominence of the relationship of the horse and man in the history of art.
Images provided by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Thomas J. Watson Library