In Cheval surpris par un lion, Barye has modified and re-used both the central horse and lion that appear in his 1838 model, Deux cavaliers arabes tuant un lion. In the first version of the work (see Christie's New York, 15 February 1995, lot 182), edited around 1850, the supporting role of the tree stump is emphasised by its thickness and verticality, appearing almost as an extension of the horse's belly. In this second version, first offered in Barye's 1857 catalogue, the angle of the stump has been altered, its girth reduced and an off-shoot branch connecting with the base added. The result is a shift of support away from directly beneath the horse, with the effect that it now appears to be balancing on its hind legs. Other modifications and the addition of a turned lower section to the base serve to increase the drama of the composition still further.
A fine cast of this model, formerly in the collection of Eduardo Guinle (d. 1941), was sold in these rooms, 25 April 2003, lot 28 ($53,775).