Untitled (Horse and Lady)

Untitled (Horse and Lady)
signed in Hindi, initialed in Urdu and dated ''67' (lower left)
oil on canvas
26 7/8 x 51 in. (68.3 x 129.5 cm.)
Painted in 1967
Private Collection, California
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Lot Essay

In many of his works, created across the six decades of his artistic career, Maqbool Fida Husain explored the juxtaposition of human and animal figures, particularly elephants, tigers and horses. Frequently, this took form as a woman paired with one or more horses, their bodies brought together in dynamic and entwined compositions.

While the artist’s horses are proud, powerful and valiant, Husain’s women are as important and integral to his oeuvre. Whether he chooses to depict them in a simple rural setting attending to mundane household chores, as all-powerful goddesses, both munificent and wrathful, or as female warriors beside galloping stallions chasing after the sun, as in this painting, his women are symbolic of inner strength and fortitude.

With one arm around the charging steed’s neck, in this painting, Husain’s characteristically featureless female figure bisects the horse’s body, her diagonal positioning and the vivid but indistinct background emphasizing the speed of both figures and adding to the sense of movement that animates this composition. Portrayed in the moment she has caught up with the white stallion and is preparing to mount, here human and equine are equals, each symbolic of different aspects of power and sovereignty. Combining these strengths, their goal of reaching the dark sun on the horizon seems tantalizingly attainable, as they hurtle through space together.

“The relationship of the body to the stallion is a paradox of frenzy and unhurried movement. An elegant dissection of space with line and angle. There is a measure of squared off posture and high leaping which suggests the free dance of Martha Graham or hints at the ecstasy that is enclosed by the flashing lines of Bernini's sculptural composition [...] the brute strength of horses born and released from fabulous regions mutate in to thunderbolt, energies, phallic and omnipotent.” (R. Shahani, Let History Cut Across Me Without Me, New Delhi, 1993, p. 8)

Please refer to lot 416, 442 and 457 for further discussion of the significance of the horse in Husain's oeuvre.

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