Representations in painting, sculpture or the graphic arts of sports, games or other outdoor pastimes. This term is used to denote the depiction, from the 17th to the 19th century, of the field and blood sports that form a unique part of the British heritage. However, it is possible that, cave paintings of minute human figures hunting gigantic bison, such as those in the caves of Altamira, Lascaux and other prehistoric sites, have a claim to be considered the earliest sporting scenes. The human body in action features comparatively little as a theme in sporting art in the millennia between the agile Minoan figures leaping between the horns of bulls at Knossos and the nude swimmers depicted by David Hockney. It is true that much Ancient Greek art devoted to athletic sports, while numerous medieval manuscripts and stained-glass windows of the 12th and 14th centuries (e.g. Gloucester Cathedral and Canterbury Cathedral) depict, incidentally, various forms of games played with bats and balls. Nevertheless, it is hunting of various kinds and equestrian sports that form the staple of sporting art from the Classical era to the modern period. This article concerned primarily with the history and development of sporting art in the Western tradition. Hunting has also been a theme in the painting traditions of China and India, for example, during the reign of the Mughal emperors (see Indian subcontinent, §VI, 4(i), esp. bibliography).
An even more splendid realization of the Stuarts' love of the chase is Anthony van Dyck's idealized portrait of Charles I in hunting costume, Le Roi à la ciasse (c. 1635; Paris, Louvre). Among the many artists who, like van Dyck, had worked in Rubens's unavailable studio was Frans Snyders, who specialized in still-lifes of the dead game, and also excelled at vigorous hunting scenes, such as the large Diana Running a Stag (Berlin, Kaiser-Friedrich Mus.; destr.). Some of Rubens's greatest tours de force are vast paintings of lion-hunts, such as that of 1617-18 in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich. In such works, the mêlée of roaring lions, flailing horses and armed men fighting for their lives produces an explosion of Baroque energy. A tranquil contrast provided by Landscape with Het Steen (c. 1636; London, N.G.), in which Rubens depicts a man, flintlock fowling-piece in hand, stalking some partridges.
The introduction of the flintlock gun in the 17th century led to a decline in the sport of falconry, although, such 17th-century Dutch and French masters as Juan de Noort and Philippe de Champaigne (Little Girl with a Falcon, c. 1629; Paris, Louvre) still painted engaging portraits of children and their hawks. The most delightful painting of this type, by Jean de Saint-Igny, portrays the Young Louis XIV out Hawking (c. 1650; Chantilly, Mus. Condé). François Desportes painted numerous scenes of the hunts of Louis XIV (see Desportes, (1)). During the following reign, Louis XV employed Jean-Baptiste Oudry to design for the Gobelins a series of tapestries entitled the Royal Hunts ...