Vigil for a Horseman


Triptych, oil on linen

152.4 × 228.6 cm (60 × 90 in)

This triptych, a format and device rarely used by the artist, represents the same character: a young, black man, lying down, in a relaxed, even lascivious pose, as if he were exposing himself directly to the visitor's gaze, without even resorting to the intermediary of the artist. The dark background decontextualizes the scene. A night scene, as the title seems to indicate.

Following the movement of the triptych, from left to right, the man first looks away, then stares at the visitor and finally resumes his pose in profile, bare arms, in a tank top, creating a sense of continuum and intimacy between the visitor and the model. The young man is lying on what looks like a bench covered with a red and white striped fabric, leaning on a cushion made of blue and black rhombuses. These colours are those of the Union Jack (the artist, of Ghanaian origin, was born in London) and the stripes are also reminiscent of the American flag, reduced to a dismembered motif.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye defies the tradition of painted portraiture by representing mostly black figures, which she thus inscribes, in a very political gesture, in the great tradition of art history: bust portraits, full-length portraits, large reclining figures, etc. These characters are fictitious, they do not represent a model but take on the dimension of an archetypal figure, a new “canon.”

Vigil for a Horseman is presented for the first time by the Pinault Collection during the exhibition "Ouverture" at the Bourse de Commerce in 2021.