‘Skating’ exhibition arrives at National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art

The sport of kings is renowned for the grace, poise and speed of its principal athletes, the horses themselves. However a new exhibition seeks to explore similar themes and draw unusual parallels with the sport and pastime of ice skating.

Opening on 15 November 2018 at the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art in Newmarket, Skating will present a fascinating collection of 30 works from the past 400 years, ranging from 17th-century Flemish painting and Victorian panoramic scenes to 20th-century photographs (including those taken by the iconic Bassano studio), vintage skates and Pathé films.

In 1605 James I chanced upon the village of Newmarket whilst out hunting and recognised the open, flat Suffolk plains as an ideal location upon which to race his string of horses. Subsequently, the town came to be regarded as the epicentre of the British horse racing industry – but the nearby rivers, fens and waterways also provided an alternative transportation network and source of sporting endeavour in the teeth of winter.

Skating’s selection of Flemish Old Masters reveals glimpses into how people living in Flanders during the 17th-century used frozen waterways as a means of going about their business, and having some fun at the same time. Cornelis Beelt’s Skaters on a Frozen River (c. 1660, Colchester and Ipswich Museums) shows two gentlemen chatting as they casually move towards the viewer, whilst a horse patiently waits to pull a sled across the ice.

To further illustrate just how long men and women have taken to the ice, Skating has a display of skates loaned from the Norris Museum in St Ives, Cambridgeshire. These include a pair of stout leather ankle boots, complete with skates from Norway and a pair of early Dutch skates.



15 November 2018 – 28 April 2019

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