Dead horses stuck in the frozen swamp – left to rotten when spring finally arrives..
EDIT: I found the source of the story that inspired me to paint this piece; Curzio Malaparte, in his war novel 'Kaputt,' memorably describes the plight of hundreds of horses frozen alive into Lake Ladoga. The novel is classified as fiction, however it is basically a memoir of his time on the Eastern front during World War II working as a journalist for an Italian publication. He was really in the places and doing the things he described in the novel.
I lack the knowledge to speak to whether the following passage is an embellishment, but to me the tone of the rest of the novel would suggest otherwise. Either way, you'll probably want to read the passage:
"The lake is not deep there, not more than six feet; but a hundred yards from the shore the bottom suddenly drops. Pressed within the narrow space (the lakeshore curves inward there forming a small bay) between the deeper water and the barrier of fire, the horses clustered, shuddering with cold and fear, their heads stretched out above the surface of the water. Those nearer to land were scorched by the flames and reared and struggled to hoist themselves onto the backs of the others, tried to push a way open by biting and kicking. And while still madly struggling, the ice gripped them.
The north wind swooped down during the night. (The north wind blows from the Murmansk Sea, like an angel of doom, crying aloud, and the land suddenly dies.) The cold became frightful. Suddenly, with the peculiar vibrating noise of breaking glass, the water froze. The heat balance was suddenly broken, and the sea, the lakes, the rivers froze. In such instances, even sea waves are gripped in mid-air and become rounded ice waves suspended in the void.
On the following day, when the first ranger patrols, their hair singed, their faces blackened by smoke, cautiously stepped over the warm ashes in the charred forest and reached the lakeshore, a horrible and amazing sight met their eyes. The lake looked like a vast sheet of white marble on which rested hundreds upon hundreds of horses’ heads. They appeared to have been chopped off cleanly with an ax. Only the heads stuck out of the crust of ice. And they were all facing the shore. The white flames of terror still burnt in their wide-open eyes. Close to the shore a tangle of wildly rearing horses rose from the prison of ice."
This painting reminds of the scene in the Neverending Story; it is the part where Artax, the horse, drowns in the swamp. It was one of the most traumatizing cinematic event that I have seen from my childhood. The backstory of "Kaputt" really animates this piece of art; your audience will be able to feel the Gestalt technique that radiates from it.
Overall, "Dead Horses" is an emotional piece; a truly, haunting beauty.