Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Fine Art Tuesday


Ploughing in the Nivernais 1849

Rosa Bonheur Born in France in 1822. Died 1899. Bonheur is considered by many to be the finest woman painter of the nineteenth century. She painted animals and natural scenes.

I looked at this painting for a bit and then something struck me as odd.

Then I looked at another painting where she painted a team of oxen and it had the same anomaly. 

Oxen pulling a cart

Do you see it yet?

Yet another of her paintings. Same quirk.

Do you see it in this one?

Same image as before but a close-up. Can you see the issue now?

Here is an image of a team of Shorthorn Oxen from Tillers International. Do you see any difference between the paintings and the photo?

Rosa Bonheur's images don't show the yokes! The oxen seem to be attached to the equipment's tongue with air.

Being a resourceful person, I contacted Tillers International and this is their reply:

"We zoomed in on the painting and have a more specific answer for you. Head Yokes were common in France and parts of Southern Europe in the 18th, 19th, and early part of the 20th Century which meant that's what Bonheur would have seen while doing reference sketches of the oxen.  If you find a large file of the painting, you'll see hints of the head yokes just behind the oxen's horns. Here are a few links that show the head yokes:

The head-yoke was a length of wood that as lashed to the horns of the oxen.

One advantage of the Head-Yoke is that it doesn't take very much wood or a high level of fabrication skills. In areas that are starved for high-strength, straight grained woods, areas like southern Europe or parts of the Indian sub-continent, head-yokes make all kinds of economic sense.

All you need is a few feet of wood slightly thicker than a hoe-handle and a couple lengths of strapping. If you are feeling high-tech you can put a skate-strap buckles on the end of the straps or use ratchet straps.

Tillers International is a group dedicated to maintaining "legacy skills" and to helping developing countries optimize the efficiency of their draft animals.


  1. Isn't it amazing what one can learn from art?

  2. There isn't any indication of a head yoke, other than what appear to be straps around the horns.


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