Freud's early work was characterised by a perfectionism of form as well as of surface finish. The present work, executed in conté crayon in black and white on buff paper is gem-like in its detail. Each work was also typically peculiar for a vein of surrealist fantasy and humour. Initially the present work would seem not to conform to this, until one considers the unlikelihood of the juxtaposition of a sparrowhawk sitting on the neck of a rocking horse. In reality this was not so surprising, Freud had a particular affection for birds and in the late 1940s kept a pair of sparrowhawks in his studio. Waldemar Hansen visiting the studio in 1947 commented, 'There is a zebra-head on the wall, an old-fashioned phonograph with a huge horn, and a live falcon which swoops around the room and alights on the master's wrist' (see M. Sheldon, Friends of Promise: Cyril Connolly and the World of Horizon, London, 1990, p. 184).
Edouard Léon Théodore Mesens (1903-1971), the first owner of the present work, was a Belgian artist and writer associated with the Surrealist movement. Editor of the surrealistic periodical The London Bulletin between 1938-40, and co-organiser of the London International Surrealist Exhibition in 1936 he later ran the London Gallery with Roland Penrose.