'It changed my perspective on these ancient people and their relationship with the animals around them'
Horse panel cave painting, about 28,000bc, Chauvet-Pont- d’Arc, Ardèche, France
Deborah Meaden says:
I have seen many cave paintings, but this was the first where I felt the author was intentionally creating a piece of art. If you look at the horse heads, you see they are all drawn with a sense of respect, each individual with a different expression, not just the usual representative images we are used to seeing on cave walls. I have the sense that the artist actually liked horses, something I would not have imagined of a cave dweller living 30,000 years ago. It changed my perspective on these ancient people and their relationship with the animals around them.
Deborah Meaden is a businesswoman and panellist on Dragons’ Den. She is also an ambassador for Hoof, a scheme set up by the British Equestrian Foundation to get more people riding.
John McEwen comments:
The Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave is at the base of a limestone cliff in the Gorges de l’Ardèche, south-east France. It was discovered on December 18, 1994, and is named after Jean-Marie Chauvet, one of the three speleologists (cave scientists) who first explored it.
The unusually large and well-preserved cave, its entrance sealed by a rock collapse 29,000 years ago, has hundreds of animal paintings of at least 13 different species, some long extinct. Carbon dating undertaken three years ago suggests the paintings date from separate Ice Age periods, 35,000 and 30,000 years ago. They are considerably older than those from 17,000 years ago at Lascaux in Dordogne, discovered in 1940, and from 11,000 and 19,000 years ago at Altamira in northern Spain, first explored in 1875.
Chauvet’s carbon-dating results confounded the experts, who were convinced the subtle shading, use of perspective and sheer elegance of the paintings were from a more recent time.
The cave is 1,310ft long, with vast chambers. The earliest paintings, in red ochre, are at the front; the later ones, in black from charred wood, at the back. Unlike in other decorated prehistoric caves, surfaces were smoothed before painting. Two-thirds of the animals shown are lions, mammoths and rhinos. These were rarely hunted and challenge the academic view that cavemen made images of their prey so that, when hunted, it would similarly succumb to their power. Also unprecedented is the inclusion of ‘scenes’. The horse ‘panel’ is a Chauvet masterpiece.
On April 25 this year, a replica of the cave, the largest ever built, was opened at Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc.
More from the ‘My Favourite Painting’ series:
Sandi Toksvig chooses her favourite painting for Country Life.
Peter Snow chooses his favourite painting for Country Life.