This horse is of a form which appears in India until the 19th century. Typical are the static posture and the shape of the head which can be paralleled by numerous larger scale examples executed in wood.
The quality of the modelling here is much finer than is found on later 19th century examples. The pure Islamic form of some of the engraving, such as the trilobed palmettes that issue from the reigns and saddle cloth suggest an earlier date. A closely related horse offered in these Rooms, 19 October 1993, lot 377 and subsequently published by Mark Zebrowski is closely comparable to ours (Mark Zebrowski, Gold, Silver and Bronze from Mughal India, London, 1997, p.106, no.119). Like ours that example had similar stance and size and was also elegantly engraved. That example had a band of floral meander surrounding the saddle flanks which closely resembled that found on Timurid or early Safavid metalwork indicating a similar, or slightly later date. The form of the saddle here supports a late 16th/early 17th century date Whilst miniatures show saddle designs not to have been uniform at any time, they show the Mughal saddle of the first half of the 17th century to have had a raised back and higher front as seen here.
In the late 16th and early 17th centuries Indian art was strongly influenced by that of Iran. Many Persian artists left the Safavid Court and came to work for the Mughals at a time whilst native Indian artists also adopted Persian motifs. Our horse, a combination of Indian form and Persian decorative detail, appears to be a product of this fusion of styles between the reigns of the Emperors Akbar and Jahangir.