Agasse is believed to have first visited England, relatively briefly, in 1790, shortly after meeting the Hon. George Pitt, later 2nd Lord Rivers, in Geneva. The 1790s, however, were a time of disquiet in Geneva and, after stays in Lausanne and Paris, in the autumn of 1800 he was drawn back to London by the artistic vitality and commercial opportunities - not to mention the relative political stability - offered by the British capital, and he was to remain there for the rest of his life.
His plan was to establish himself very much as a sporting painter - particularly of racehorses and dogs - and, with both commissions and introductions from Lord Rivers, he met with considerable success. Other patrons included the Earl of Lonsdale, Francis, 2nd Baron Heathfield, Sir Thomas Charles Bunbury, the Hon. Henry Wellesley (younger brother of the Duke of Wellington) and, most significantly, King George IV, for whom Agasse painted The Nubian Giraffe, 1827, and White-tailed Gnus, 1828.
Like his great predecessor George Stubbs, Agasse brought, over and above a fundamental understanding of anatomy and exceptional draughtsmanship, a sympathy and originality to his painting of animals that placed his work on an altogether higher plane than that of his rivals. Like Stubbs, he responded to the demand for paintings of exotic animals by creating works of exquisite beauty and extraordinary sensitivity.
A record of the indistinct inscription on the back of the frame suggests that the bold stallion depicted in the present picture was called Delphini[?] and was owned and ridden by Mrs Colnaghi. Agasse makes several references in his hand-written account book to painting small pictures of 'grey Arabian[s]'.