As I was researching the sport of falconry for our recent event and demonstration a few weeks ago, I found myself going down a “falconry in art” rabbit hole.  Our Library really is a wonderful repository. We have several shelves of books with titles like The Art of Falconry (1943), American Falconry in the Twentieth Century (1999), Practical Falconry; to which is added, How I Became a Falconer (1972), Falconry for You (1960), and Falconry and Art (1987).  Grabbing the last title, I sat on the floor of the Library and dug in. I never noticed how much falconry is portrayed throughout art and really, how early it is shown: 4th-century Etruscan tomb decorations, an 8th-century Mesopotamian stele, and a 13th-century bas-relief in Turkey (pictured below). 

Bas-relief of falconers from the Ruins of Bogazkab (Asiatic Turkey), 13th century. The falconer on the right holds the leash of the bird.

Of course, one of the most familiar images of a falcon is in Egyptian iconography, the god Horus, who was depicted with the body of a man and head of a falcon. Interestingly, no images of a falcon in captivity exist nor is there a hieroglyphic symbol for falconry, which suggests that the sport was not practiced in Egypt. Likewise, there are no images in early Greek or Roman art, possibly for the same reason.

Image of the Egyptian god Horus.

Coinciding with the rise of falconry in the Western Middle Ages was the rise of its depiction in art.  The 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry shows several instances of King Harold with a hawk on his arm. In one, he is presenting it as a gift to William of Normandy.

This scene is after Harold has brought the falcon to William who is shown holding the hawk.

One of the most well-known works in art history is Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1413-1416), a devotional book, known as a Book of Hours. Amongst the psalms and prayers are calendars, each month alternating between depictions of agricultural and courtly life.  The month of August shows a scene of men on horseback and women seated aside with them, along with a groom in front, carrying raptors on their arms. 

A century or so later, birds of prey were included in The Lady with a Unicorn tapestry series. Dating from the late 15th to early 16th centuries, the six tapestries are thought to be allusions to the five senses with a sixth tapestry whose subject is unknown. Depictions of animals, both real and mythical, are interwoven throughout.

A falcon gently lands on the hand of the woman in the center.

On the other side of the world, falconry was a frequent presence in Eastern culture and, therefore, art. Terracotta figures found in Japanese burial mounds, known as haniwa, include figures of falconers. The one depicted below is from the Kofun Period (c. 250–c. 600 CE). These were life size and placed on top of graves.

A 16th-century drawing, Mirza Ali Haft Awrang of Jami, from a Persian Royal Manuscript shows a falconer with his hawk on the left-gloved hand and an injured duck in his right. The glove he uses looks detailed and contains some of the only remaining color.

From 18th-century India is a Portrait of a rajah, goshawk on fist, currently housed in the Louvre in Paris.  It shows a strong profile view of a man with a falcon perched on his glove, looking back at him.

We continue to see falconry throughout the Western Renaissance and into the 18th and 19th centuries.  As the popularity of the sport ebbs and flows so does its prominence within artistic tradition. So what, then, do we have in the 21st century to represent this ancient sport?  Photographs. Copyright laws prevent me from producing them here, but I invite you to Google “21st-century falconry photography.” Beautiful contemporary images appear of men and women continuing in the tradition of the medieval lords and ladies in Les Tres Riches Heures and the Indian Rajah holding a goshawk.

Falconry has, literally, withstood the test of time, remaining relevant in a modern world. The art produced throughout the centuries proves this. I’m eager to see what will be created next.

Image citations:

Falconers from Ruins of Bogazkab : Christian Antoine de Chamerlat, Falconry and Art, London, Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd, 1987.

Egyptian god Horus: By Jeff Dahl – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, of the Egyptian god Horus.

Bayeux Tapestry: Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry in Reading. The website has the entire story broken down by scene – certainly worth a click!

Tres Riche Heures: By Limbourg brotheres – R.M.N. / R.-G., Public Domain . The Book of Hours is currently housed at the Musee Conde outside of Paris, France

Lady with the Unicorn: Taste:, Public Domain
Currently housed at the Museum of the Middle Ages, Paris, France

Haniwa falconer: . A wonderful resource on Japanese falconry.

Mirza Ali Haft Awrang of Jami: Christian Antoine de Chamerlat, Falconry and Art, London, Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd, 1987.

Portrait of a Rajah, goshawk on fist: Christian Antoine de Chamerlat, Falconry and Art, London, Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd, 1987.


Resource on the Bayeux Tapestry: Robin S. Oggins, The Kings and Their Hawks: Falconry in Medieval England. Yale University Press, 2004.

Resource on haniwa:

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at

All good things must come to an end. When we first posted to this blog in December of 2014, I had relatively little experience with the NSLM collection. We had a collection of fantastic sporting materials, but much of it wasn’t in usable condition. Books were shelved in a disorganized fashion, it was easy to lose track of things in the Rare Book Room, and we had a huge backlog of archival materials waiting to be processed into the collection.

As the work of improving the organization of the collection proceeded, I was afforded the opportunity to really dig into the books, manuscripts, photographs, and archival materials in the collection. Every book came off the shelves to be recataloged, and that meant a chance to learn more about the collection. This blog has been a wonderful opportunity to share those materials with the outside world.

We’ve reached over 55,000 readers on this blog since we first began. Our posts have made the NSLM’s presence truly international, receiving views from countries across the globe. We’ve received comments, questions, and visits based on the content of our blog. I have accounted for 119 out of Drawing Covert’s 243 posts. I’ve learned a lot and have enjoyed my blogging greatly.

Drawing Covert will continue in the months ahead, but I will no longer be a contributor to it. I have taken a new position and will be leaving the National Sporting Library & Museum in the next few weeks. I’m grateful to our readers for their support and interest; you have made this blog a tremendous success by sharing it with friends and family. We’ve come a long way, and I’m excited to know that Drawing Covert will continue to provide fascinating sporting content in the future. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of it.

Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) from 2014 to 2019. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports.

“Invented by Thos Butler & Executed at his House. Pall-Mall, London, 1755,” read the prominent and legible inscription and date on one of the panels of the NSLM’s Sporting Screen.

The inscription that adorns the NSLM Sporting Screen.

On view in the exhibition, Deconstructed: The NSLM Sporting Screen, through September 15, 2019, this captivating object is presented in its recently conserved state. The screen is decorated with 18th-century themes. On one side are primarily horse and jockey portraits as well as Thoroughbred breeding and a mare and foal image.

(after) Thomas Butler (English, c. 1730-1760), Four-Panel Sporting Screen, c. 1860 (recto),
hand-colored engravings mounted on canvas, and oil on canvas mounted on a wooden frame, 81 ½ x 108 inches, Bequest of Sonia Phipps Seherr-Thoss, 2006

Thirty-two mounted and hand-colored subscription prints from the series, Portraits and Pedigrees of the Most Celebrated Racers from Paintings by Eminent Artists, published between 1741 and 1753, have been adhered to canvas and individually tinted. The full series included 34 engravings. NSLM’s screen features 31 unique images from the set and a repeat (Can you find it?). Underneath the hand-coloring, the square prints look like this:

“Plate 1: Starling,” Portraits and Pedigrees of the Most Celebrated Racers from Paintings by Eminent Artists, with portraits of the Jockeys, Published by Arundel and London, Thomas Butler, 1751-1753, 1753. ©

The engravings include the racehorses’ pedigrees, race wins, and crests of the owners: they are among the earliest attempts to produce a formal record of the emerging 18th-century British racing industry. John Cheny, Sr. oversaw the printing of the annually-produced prints beginning in 1741 until Thomas Butler of Pall-Mall, a bookseller and printmaker, took over their publication in 1750 after Cheny died, until the last one was printed in the series in 1753. The engravings are after the works of sporting artists James Seymour (English, 1702–1752) and Thomas Spencer (English, 1700–1765). The four paintings underneath the prints on the screen are also copies of 18th-century works by James Seymour: Fox, Aaron, Cato, and Slamerkin.

Paintings copied from the works of James Seymour (English, 1702–1752).

On the other side of the screen is a completely different 18th-century sporting theme, classic riding school imagery.

(after) Thomas Butler (English, c. 1730-1760), Four-Panel Sporting Screen, c. 1860 (verso),
hand-colored engravings mounted on canvas, and oil on canvas mounted on a wooden frame, 81 ½ x 108 inches, Bequest of Sonia Phipps Seherr-Thoss, 2006

The eight images are copies of illustrations in the 1729 book, Twenty Five Actions of the Menage [sic] Horse, a riding manual written and illustrated by artist John Vanderbank (English, 1694–1739). Trained in classic dressage, Vanderbank created a series of illustrations, many of which were reproduced in his publication.

John Vanderbank (British, 1694–1739), “The Manege-Gallop with the right leg” engraved as plate 14 in “Twenty Five Actions of the Manage Horse…,” 1729, pen, in gray ink, black ink, graphite, and gray wash on medium, slightly textured, cream, laid paper, 6 5/8 × 6 1/4 inches, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

“The Manege-Gallop with the right leg,’ Plate 14, “Twenty-Five Actions of the Manage Horse” by John Vanderbank; engraved by Josephus Sympson, 1729, National Sporting Library & Museum, Vladimir S. Littauer Collection

The date on the screen was a point of interest. On the surface, the riding school and horse racing images support the 1755 production date of the “Thomas Butler” inscription on the NSLM’s sporting screen. Butler advertised his shop’s ability to copy known sporting artist’s works, which would explain the production of the oils on canvas on the screen’s horse racing side and the imagery after the 1729 Vanderbank publication on the other.

The manner in which the paintings on both sides of the NSLM screen were executed, however, points to a later style. Here is an image of an actual oil on canvas by John Vanderbank for comparison to the manége images on NSLM’s screen:

John Vanderbank (British, 1694–1739), A Young Gentleman Riding a Schooled Horse, between 1728 and 1729, oil on canvas, 19 1/8 × 12 3/4 inches, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The recent work done by Conservator Deborah Parr on the screen in preparation for the current exhibition afforded NSLM a great opportunity to use scientific analysis to definitively answer the question of when the NSLM sporting screen was made.

Parr took paint samples from sites on the front and back of the screen and sent them off for pigment analysis. This is one of the images from the microscopic review:

Pigment scraping of “Slamerkin” at 1000x magnification contains a mix of
blue and yellow paints to create the color green, photo courtesy Natasha K. Loeblich, Conservator and Paint Analyst

The report confirmed that the pigment, Cerulean blue, was present in all samples, a “smoking gun.” Cerulean blue became available for purchase in 1859. The NSLM screen is, therefore, definitively, a 19th-century piece highlighting imagery produced in the 1700s, well before its construction.

One of the questions, I have received about this conclusive findings is whether or not we are disappointed. The result ultimately relates to a decorative object and not a mis-attributed work of fine art. It is fulfilling to be able to settle a research question and have a proven date to contextualize an object. It definitively tells us that sporting enthusiasts in the 1860s were drawn to antique sporting images for decorations in their homes.

Come out and see the exhibit! There is so much more to explore about 18th-century sporting artists and the conservation work that was done on the NSLM Sporting Screen.


Claudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator at the National Sporting Library & Museum since the position was underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at

Before Eadweard Muybridge (English, 1830–1904) began systematically studying animal locomotion with his camera in 1877, understanding of how horses and other animals moved at faster gaits was tenuous at best. The series of photographs Muybridge produced allowed sporting artists to more accurately portray their subjects.

Eadweard Muybridge (English, 1830-1904), Horse and Rider, 1878, c. 1890 collotype, 19 x 24 1/8 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Judith & Jo Tartt, Jr. Photography Collection

Muybridge also explored ways to portray motion by combining photographs of different stages of action and displaying them together. He came up with a device known as a “zoöpraxiscope” in 1879. The zoöpraxiscope featured a disc with several images painted on to it, showing different stages of motion. A projector light was shone through the disc, and the shadows cast on the wall by the images as the disc was spun seemed to bring the pictures to life.

Eadweard Muybridge’s zoopraxiscope and disc Zoopraxiscope [CC BY-SA 4.0 (

W.E. Lincoln’s U.S. Patent No. 64,117 of Apr. 23, 1867, W.E. Lincoln [Public domain]

The zoöpraxiscope was difficult to produce, so another moving picture device called a “zoetrope” was more popular. This is a cylindrical device with images printed on the inside. When the device is spun and viewed through the slats, or “apertures,” the pictures form the moving image. Your eyes can’t perceive each picture fast enough to see them individually, but the “blanks” interspersed in between tell your brain that each picture is separate. Your brain and your eyes compromise and put together a moving picture that satisfies both. This is called the “Phi phenomenon,” and it only works if you view each image for less than 1/10th of a second. Any slower, and your eyes would be able to perceive each picture separately. Modern movies and videos work in a very similar manner; a series of images, called “frames,” cycle through the screen at around 60 frames per second. Some higher quality displays can display 300 frames per second!

NSLMology: The Science of Sporting Art, on view through September 15, 2019, features a zoetrope building station, but you can make one at home too! Download the pattern and instructions to make a zoetrope of a galloping racehorse.

Instagram post from April 27, 2019 Family Day showing a completed zoetrope

Be sure to stop by the museum and visit NSLMology: The Science of Sporting Art to learn more about motion and zoetropes, as well as ecology, weather, chemistry, and color theory. There are lots more zoetropes to try, including one with Muybridge’s Gentleman Jumping!

Cynthia Kurtz is the Spring 2019 Curatorial Intern at the National Sporting Museum and Library. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Museum Studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and graduated cum laude from Tulane University with a degree in Classical Literature in 2016. When not at the museum she can likely be found with her beloved horse Splash.

As a student in George Washington University’s Museum Studies program, I am required to complete a 260-hr internship at a museum as part of my curriculum. Given my passion for horses and dogs and the ways they serve us, the National Sporting Library & Museum was the perfect opportunity for me to combine my interests with my education. Fortunately, they also offer a robust internship program and were more than willing to work with my GWU advisor and me to put together a program of study and work.

Photographing the newly conserved Four-paneled Sporting Screen for the exhibition, Deconstructed: The NSLM Sporting Screen.
Front and back of: (after) Thomas Butler (English, c. 1730-1760)
Four-paneled Sporting Screen , c. 1860
hand-colored engravings and oils on canvas on a wooden frame
81 1/2 x 108 inches, Bequest of Sonia Phipps Seherr-Thoss, 2006, photography Cynthia Kurtz

At the time of writing, I have completed 210 of those hours, and my time at the NSLM is winding to a close. I am sad to leave this place; I love the collections, the mission, and the people who make it all happen. But I am also excited to see what I can do next with all the skills and knowledge I have acquired over the past three months!

Before I started my internship, I had never actually handled artwork of any sort besides my own. There are extensive protocols and rules when it comes to handling different types of artwork and frames; for instance, it is usually necessary to wear gloves to protect the work. Sometimes, however, it is safer not to wear them for increased tactile feedback, for example when handling works on paper. There is also a lot of work that goes into keeping the works in tip-top shape while on display: every week I went through the entire museum and cleaned all the frames and sculptures with special brushes.

George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator Claudia Pfeiffer holds a box for me while packing On Fly in the Salt: American Saltwater Fly Fishing from the Surf to the Flats, a traveling exhibition that was on loan from the American Museum of Fly Fishing

I also learned more about forming a solid collection plan, processing acquisitions, and keeping strong records of items in the collections. I compiled research for some current exhibitions (see my upcoming post on zoetropes, which I worked on for NSLMology: The Science of Sporting Art!) and some for shows that will not be on display for several years. The ability to work on such a variety of programs in different stages of development meant that I got a taste of the entire process of curating a museum exhibition, start to finish.

In short, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities NSLM has given me this semester and have thoroughly enjoyed my time here. I wish the best of luck to the next intern, and I eagerly await the next chapter of my own career.

Cynthia Kurtz is the Spring 2019 Curatorial Intern at the National Sporting Museum and Library. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Museum Studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and graduated cum laude from Tulane University with a degree in Classical Literature in 2016. When not at the museum she can likely be found with her beloved horse Splash.

We have over 1,300 objects in the museum collection at the National Sporting Library & Museum.  Those objects can be broken down into three categories of collections: permanent, study, and loan collections.  Regardless of which collection an object belongs to, the motto is the same: we treat all objects with the same care and attention.

The objects in the permanent collection have been donated or bequeathed to the NSLM or purchased by the NSLM.  An example of this would be The Start of the Derby (1845) by John Herring Sr. (English, 1795-1865), generously bequeathed to the museum in 2017.  This is a wonderful painting by a popular British sporting artist and represents an ordinary moment in a unique style and tradition all his own.  The Start of the Derby will be part of the upcoming NSLMology: The Science of Sporting Art exhibition, opening Friday, April 12.

John Frederick Herring, Sr (English, 1795-1865) The Start of the Derby, 1845
oil on canvas, 28 x 48 inches, Bequest of Elizabeth D. Clark, 2017

The study collection is comprised of objects that are primarily used for research purposes.  For instance, in NSLMology, we are including a bronze of a Mare and Foal, which visitors will be encouraged to touch.  Wait. Why is this allowed when every sign in the museum says Do Not Touch?  Because in this instance, the bronze is a 20th-century casting.  This does not make it less valuable, it is simply a later model, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with it.

Pierre-Jules Mêne (French, 1810-1879), Jument Arabe et son Paulain (An Arab Mare and Foal),
model 1850; cast early 20th century, bronze with detached wooden base, 12 x 19 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches, Gift of the Estate of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Atkinson, 2014

Our last collection is our loan collection.  In addition to the rare private lender, institutions frequently loan to and from one another and we are no exception.  Two popular bronze sculptures on display are from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond: Pointer Guarding Dead Game (1850) and Setter, Pointer, & Partridge (1848) by Pierre-Jules Mêne (French, 1810-1879). 

Pierre-Jules Mêne (French, 1810-1879), Setter, Pointer, and Partridge, 1850, bronze, 9 x 16 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Forrest E. Mars, 69.29.2

Since we want to make sure different works of art are seen, and to allow the art to rest, we frequently rotate art from the different collections between being on-view and in storage. 

To keep track of our different collections, each one has a different numbering system.  Using the above objects as examples, the accession number for The Start of the Derby is 2017.3.1.  This means the painting was acquired in 2017.  It was the third acquisition that year, and it was the first object of that bequest.  We also received several other paintings within the bequest, therefore, those additional works received the subsequent numbers: 2017.3.2, 2017.3.3, etc. 

The objects in the study collection have an “S” in front of their number.  The accession number for Mare and Foal is S2014.13.1.  It was the thirteenth study object received in 2014 and the only object in that donation. Likewise, the VMFA bronzes on loan are numbered L2007.31.5-6.

This is by no means a universal numbering system.  Each museum is different.  Larger institutions may have different numbering systems within different departments.  Each work of art has a tag so we can track it whenever it is moved around the museum.  The accession number on the art corresponds to our digital cataloging system that records any location moves and stores all pertinent information relating to that specific object. That, though, is a post for another day…

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at

When we visit a museum and admire the great works hanging there, it is easy to imagine the masterful artists sitting down and creating each piece in one swift movement, merely putting brush to canvas and bringing to life yet another masterpiece. In actuality, the process of creating art is a long and arduous one, and the work hanging in the gallery is seldom the first iteration.

As part of my internship, I have been working with a collection of watercolors by Cuthbert Bradley, an early 20th century artist and writer who lived and worked in England. Born in 1861, he was the son of the Rev. Edward Bradley, also a well-known writer and artist. Cuthbert Bradley first worked as an architect, but upon moving to the countryside with his wife engaged more with his love of sporting pursuits, becoming a journalist for The Field and hunting regularly with various packs. As an artist, he was entirely self-taught and showed a penchant for depicting hounds.

The collection of watercolors I have been working with offers a unique opportunity to explore the artist’s process. They are primarily studies, possibly made in preparation for a later, more finished, work and feature handwritten notes describing who is in the painting, what is happening, and even details such as the date, the location of the kill, and the time the hunt lasted. In a few instances even the horses and dogs are named. One painting, The Earl and Countess of Lonsdale Arriving at Barleythorpe, 1893, is specifically labeled by Bradley as being a study for a painting he would later present to Lord Lonsdale. By completing a study, the artist can “map” a painting and decide on composition before committing to a final piece. It also allowed the quick capture of a moment outdoors in the days before cameras were portable or even commonplace, perfect for documenting a fast-paced hunt. Because it will not be a final work, the artist is free to leave imperfections or paint over them loosely, as evidenced in this detail from Viewing a Fox Away, 1917.

Cuthbert Bradley (English, 1861-1943), Viewing a Fox Away, 1917, watercolor on paper, 10 ¼ x 14 ½ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels, 1999.
Detail of Viewing a Fox Away, 1917. The ghost of the previous position of the horizontal directionals, visible one inch below those in the final version, shows how Bradley adjusted his composition as he worked.

A painting’s reverse can also be a fascinating source of information about the artist and his work. As these works are not framed, I am able to view the backs and learn quite a bit more from what I find there. On the back of Mr Henry Spencer Hunting the Blankney Hounds, 1920, the artist left extensive notes, a list of dogs’ names, a sketch of a galloping horse and rider, and a message stating “Please Return to Cuthbert Bradley, Folkingham, Lincolnshire,” all haphazardly strewn about the paper. Several other pieces are mounted on mats that have seemingly been reused, as the backs have handwritten captions for paintings that are no longer attached and are not in our collection. A fascinating example is Stirrup Cup: Lord Lonsdale. Master of the Cottesmore, 1915-21., 1921, on the back of which another painting remains, though it has been cut. A large “X” is drawn through one of the horses clearing the fence. It is hard to say whether Bradley suffered a falling out with the subject of this painting, decided to go in a different direction with the study, or merely completed the work and wanted to recycle his materials for newer pieces. Regardless, it is an excellent example of how the front of a work seldom tells the entire story.

Cuthbert Bradley (English, 1861-1943), Reverse of Mr Henry Spencer Hunting the Blankney Hounds, 1920, watercolor on paper, 9 ¾ x 13 ½ inches.
National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels, 1999. (Image enhanced for clarity)

As a museum, it is our responsibility to not only show works of art but to interpret them. The watercolors of Cuthbert Bradley are a profound example of how important it is to consider not just the visible portion of the painting but the entire work. What’s hidden behind the frame can tell us a great deal about the artist and their artistic process.

Reverse of Stirrup Cup: Lord Lonsdale. Master of the Cottesmore 1915-21., 1921, Cuthbert Bradley (English, 1861-1943) watercolor on paper, 9 ¾ x 12 inches.
National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels, 1999.

If you would like to learn more about Cuthbert Bradley and the hunts he frequented, the library has copies of his books Good Sport Seen with some Famous Packs 1885-1910 and Fox-hunting from Shire to Shire in both the Main Reading Room and the Rare Book Room.

Cynthia Kurtz is the Spring 2019 Curatorial Intern at the National Sporting Museum and Library. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Museum Studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and graduated cum laude from Tulane University with a degree in Classical Literature in 2016. When not at the museum she can likely be found with her beloved horse Splash.