Jo Baer: Four Drawings

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Jo Baer

FOUR DRAWINGS ... Bringeth Thou Thy Whip�

With a commentary by Jo Baer and Bruce Robbins


“When Thou Cometh To Woman...


This album of drawings and discourse probes connections between: some articles of use, the wild and the domestic animal, and woman.

The human animal developed technology in order to achieve those tasks in which other beasts excel: ill-equipped to browse as effectively as a goat occasioned the sickle; unblessed with the hawk’s passage through the air gave rise to the spear; lacking the claws of a mole led to the spade and not having the strength of a lion’s paw gave need for the club. As a matter of course, with fabricated, laked-stone versions of the carnivores’ lesh-shearing carnassial teeth, the human hand could even butcher the leopard’s kill. Emulations such as these served humankind well for millennia on end.

Much later different kinds of augmenting tools evolved to extend the range of motion and touch: the rope and stick or subsequent whip, rein, and bit; to complement the balancing art: the seat tied to a horse with the supporting stirrup; and the stick also elaborated to walking crutch and cane. Such power tools became signiicant only after humans learned to create surplus – the origin of wealth – where this new facility helped forge opportunities to be master of the (his) world and the things within it. Out of this were born certain inequalities. As background, some fauna (amongst them ovine, equus and bovine, but not the unremittingly smart swine) had already learned to survive through the long cold-snaps by maturing quickly while not becoming too grown up, preparing themselves, (as it were), for a much later place at work and table.

In the foreground, and aided by such good fortune, a societal shift towards a more mobile and opportunistic life featuring plough and husbandry would give an enhanced position to the male in the productive economy. This turn of the wheel would cause posterities to celebrate a wildly different line of consanguinity – no more alone the mothers’ child, instead the patrilineal heir. In effect, this advent of reformed clans with their increased wars generated a decline in the stature of craft, ritual and herself: operators ripe for dominion. Hierarchical civilizations peopled by the tamed, the feral and the fantastic provide the grounds upon which this seed is broadcast and lines are drawn.

... Bringeth Thou Thy Whip” 3

Seat of Power

Beneath the woman there is a saddle which sits upon the horse. It was not always so‌

‌ and whose hand still holds the whip.



Vaulting Horse

Indo-European pastoral warriors carried en route— with the assistance of their newly tamed horse, a germinal tongue which has long remained. (Its linguisitic descendants now embrace nearly half the population of the planet). This language that the nomad spread along the horizontal axis of his quests – for land, resources and controlling inluence — became a vessel for his values. Amongst such values, those that he sought in husbandry led to breeding a horse that was not just a source of food but was also an able servant. Envisioned as a means of transport, the nomad selected those animals that were leet of foot and well able to carry their burden. 6

In complementing the slow-paced ox, the revamped horse tamed for draft, war, plough and herding enabled that swift burst out of the Pontic-Caspian homeland to penetrate India, Persia, Turkey and eventually all of Europe and much of Asia. Husbandry and breeding always require some attention be paid to the sex lives of servants. Successful domestication requires the controlling of desires as well as the where and when of seed deposit.


Splendorous “Blond” Beasts

Originating from agricultural settlements and not conined to latitudinal growth – at cross purposes to the new pastoral society – the citadel appears. Taking care to wall out the wild the citadel simultaneously brought the wild within to perform her less mundane tasks. Amongst other beasts, the leonine goddess was summoned to ensure internal order. In this ofice she lourished while settled life, with its more eficient production and defenses allowed the populations to increase. Now, with its increased occupation of the earth the city no longer walls against the wild but creates, instead, artifacts that incorporate remnants and souvenirs of the savage: the zoological garden, the parkland sanctuary, the boxing ring and the emblematic design. 8


Horse Headed Sceptre

The medieval follower of Christ no longer held the same place for the Lioness. None the less he needed to bestow some of her qualities onto his horse. Displacing his fear of the truly feral upon the synthesizing Unicorn, he rendered this fantastic beast as “strong and cruel as the Lion”. The domestic need to tame desire in woman perversely increased the status of the virgin (that age from the onset of woman’s ability to reproduce up to the time when she is then permitted to exercise that power). Alas, the Unicorn is captured when it lays its head, with penetrative horn, upon a virgin’s lap. Although sentient woman will always be wild, the fabulous unicorn (once hunted like the lion) remains only as fairy tale or chained emblem. So who is left for service? 10




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Seat of Power, 1991 mixed media on paper, 100 x 150 cm / 39.4 x 59.1 inch collection Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo

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Vaulting Horse, 1991 mixed media on paper, 150 x 200 cm / 59.1 x 78.8 inch collection Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo

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Splendorous “Blond” Beasts, 1991 mixed media on paper, 150 x 200 cm / 59.1 x 78.8 inch collection Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo

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Horse Headed Sceptre, 1991 mixed media on paper, 100 x 150 cm / 39.4 x 59.1 inch collection Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo





The classical confrontation between lion and horse cultures is shown in artifacts across the ages. 13

The lion appears throughout the Near East and the Mediterranean in the lands where the Mother Goddess held sway. The horse as ritual animal is carried wherever the Indo-European settled.



A lion attacking a horse, as well as being a zoรถtic event, also bears witness to archetypal confrontation between peoples. It is shown on the ceremonial staircases leading to the Audience Hall in the remains of the palace of Persepolis, the seat of the ancient Persian empire. The importance of this particular iconography is seen by the placement of the subject alongside carvings of Median and Persian nobles at every entrance.

Lion attacking horse is also seen in an Etruscan wall painting from the Franรงois Tomb in Vulci.


The theme continues to occur: through Roman sculpture, paintings by Rubens in the Baroque, Stubbs in the 18th century and GĂŠricault in the Romantic period.

This same confrontation appears in 1st-century artifacts from the Steppes, where it is clear that although they were familiar with and understood the anatomy of the horse (it was after all horse country) the heavily stylized rendering of the lion displays little knowledge of it’s anatomy and is seen, indeed, to be a strange animal.



Of all the animals which are chosen for totemic use the lion most visibly wears its gender. A perversion of this can be seen in the entrance to a temple, Bungamati in Patan, Nepal, where two male lions (male in so far as both sport manes) guard the entrance. Yet both are sexed by inscribed genitals: the one on the left with a phallus and the one on the right with a vulva. These sexual parts are more human than leonine and extend to the “female’s” protruding, coloured breasts at chest height.

Another instance of pointedly sexed lion occurs in Egypt with the lioness-headed Sekhmet, goddess of vengeance and punisher of the damned. She was a member of the Great Triad of Memphis (which lourished between 3100 BC and 2000 BC) and she is goddess of war. The leonine attributes of the deities were understood as aggressive and warlike powers. Although the horse was used in battle chariots by Egyptians by 1800 BC, they apparently had no deities employing the horse despite using countless other animals.


The visual differences between the sexes of lions led those who were perhaps less familiar with the beast to suppose that the male and female were of different species. Hyginus: “Fabuia” 185 records Zeus changing Melanion and Atlanta into lions because, as such, they would not be able to engage in sexual congress due to the fact that “lions mate only with leopards”. On the other hand, from classical Greek and Roman times until the beginning of the 18th century, no European language had technical words for the human females’ ovaries or vagina. Gender was unsexed, the females’ genitalia being merely the withdrawn (and therefore mysterious) inverse of the males’. Herophile (3rd century BC), in his anatomical dissertations, called the ovaries “dydumos”, the name for testicles. Later Galen (2nd century AD), further elaborated this, theorising that women were essentially men but lacked their “vital heat”, which was the reason for their internal retention of the genitals. Men had enough “heat” to keep them outside. In this view, the vagina is like an inverted penis, the uterus like the scrotum and the ovaries, testicles.

A Phoenician plaque – illustrating an Egyptian legend – shows a lioness eating a man, and since these plaques were mass-produced and traded widely throughout the Middle East, the lioness would have been understood by some as a female lion, by others as a distinct species of feline. 18


A statue in Madrid recalls the primordial mode of transport used by the goddess Cybele: a carriage drawn by lions. The notion of a chariot being drawn by lions is obviously fantastic for there is no way that a lion would undertake this task other than for a god or goddess.

Cybele, the great mother goddess of the wild, lived upon mountains (often in a cave) with lions as faithful companions. Although Cybele is usually associated with the Phrygians – who are classed as Indo-Europeans – she is actually a continuation of an older order that survived in inaccessible regions where invading inluences took a less complete hold.


There is a moment in all of these cultural transactions when the ikons of gender must interpenetrate one another. Becoming briely hermaphroditic, once upon a time God created both Adam and Eve in “his� own image.

A 600 BC relief from Delphi depicting the war of the gods and giants, shows a chariot drawn by lions with, Cybele and Hercules (who has muscled in), side by side, now of equal standing.


A further decline in stature of the lion deity is illustrated in depictions of the “tamed� lion pulling carts and being ridden: a 15th-century Greek mural shows St. Mamas riding a lion. Wistfully, in legend, the savage lion often appears as the non-feral friend and helper of man.


The Subject Horse

It is evident that horses were being ridden in the Pontic-Caspian regions by 4000 BC, some 500 years before the invention of the wheel. Riding certainly led to the extention of long-distance trade and communications across the grasslands. The hostile worlds of the steppes and river valleys then became a conduit for war and trade accompanied by a marked increase of hunting prowess: (it should be noted that to sit upon a horse affords speed, strength and a view of the landscape that is truly revolutionary. If you doubt this, try it). This advantage led both to an enriching, dispersal of culture while encouraging, at the same time, the growth of defensive concentrations of sedentary farming populations. 22

The extent and progress of invasion that riding made possible is displayed and ranges from Uzbekistan petroglyphs (dated 3000 BC) showing horse-drawn vehicles to simultaneous evidence in the Netherlands of the tamed horse and the wheel. As well, the dramatic effect of a horse-borne warrior is demonstrated by the bestowal of supernatural status: one instance, the Centaur. So it is surely no accident that the horse became identiied as a carrier of souls to the underworld, personiied by the goddess Aganippe, or as a harbinger of death personiied by the goddesses Demeter and Epona. Where the goddess survives in horse culture it is in the role of the creator/destroyer.


Later visions, such as death on horseback show the rider as a skeleton and therefore, to all intents unsexed (unless it is possible to count the ribs?).


A common type of horse shrine, where the skin and head of a horse is suspended on poles, always takes care to include the hooves, for even in symbolic incarnations: ‘no hoof, no horse’.

Remnants of the symbolic importance of the horse span from the mountain villages of the Khas in Nepal – where the event of selling a horse is second only in importance to marriage (despite the horse having no discernable practical use in such a landscape) through to Britain – where important servants in the Royal Household hold the titles of equerry (despite having no discernable duties involving horses).


Trading Places

An Assyrian frieze from 645 BC, displays in register lions being killed from chariots and horseback. At the top, Ashurbanipal (the king) faces a lion released from a cage; in the middle, he comes up behind a lion and pulls its tail, and at the bottom he pours libation over


his kill. When the horse is ridden, the natural relationship between the horse and the lion is reversed. The lion thereby becomes prey and the horse becomes part of the predatory activity.

Imagining Magic

By the 15th century AD there is an attempt to synthesize the lion and the horse. The horse, by now a well-known, domesticated animal is accorded wildness in the guise of the unicorn. A manuscript from this same time doubles the savage attribute disclosing a wild man riding a wild unicorn.

Another contemporary manuscript shows a wild man taming the lion. Although the beast has become a diminutive dog- or cat-like creature, the lion is still perceived as wild if less potent. 27

The virgin makes an appearance with both lion and unicorn in a 15th-century manuscript from Sienna where she is lanked by a tiny lion and a sizeable unicorn.

A Cluny tapestry from the same period illustrates a heraldic use of the virgin lanked by a lion and a unicorn. Here a large lion holds a banner as he does in many subsequent emblems.


(We have found no commentary on the protruding tongue of lion and unicorn as heraldic device. But as a regenerating mechanism or equation in ancient hunting [shamanistic] magic, its use is clearly seen: animal bones, skins, and skulls were collected and stuffed with wood shavings, a stick-like tongue protruding from the skull so as to permit the ‘god-resurrect’ access to the animal, allowing it to be reborn and hunted another day.)

In the Royal crest of England the lion has a crown while the unicorn is chained.


Facing Down

In a 15th-century Renaissance painting by Massaccio, St. Jerome (who is always depicted with a lion and a sacred text) has the lion “resident� in a bottom corner where, in this diminutive form, it resembles a small dog.

A later painting from the early 16th century by Corregio also shows St. Jerome, but the lion, although large, now has human features.


Such anthropomorphizing of the lion’s face continues through the 20th century (vide the Trafalgar Square lion), while the lion’s form continues to diminish or become dog-like (e.g. the Pekingese “lion”).

Now that all mortal animals are enslaved, hypostatized or extinct, might not the anomalous Phoenix rise once more from the ashes of redundant technologies to herald a new world order? 31

Jo Baer Composed in 1991, published upon the occasion of an exhibition at the Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia, and the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, NL 1993

© 1993 (Reprint 2014) Jo Baer The original publication has been made possibe wiith the generous support of the Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture, Amsterdam