Maqbool Fida Husain’s horses, perhaps the artist’s most well-known subject, draw from both personal and universal influences. The equine figures became a central part of his oeuvre in the early 1950s, when he first painted the animal, and continued to gallop across his canvases till his very last years of painting. These horses are typically depicted as strong creatures with reared heads, flared nostrils, flying manes and a tremendous sense of movement, representative of power, knowledge, sensuality and virility.
The present lot, painted in 2009, was gifted by the artist to a family who he enjoyed a close friendship with for over thirty years. Husain spent many evenings at their home in Manhattan, where they hosted several birthday celebrations for him over the years. This painting, along with lot 521, was gifted by Husain to these friends, on the artist’s final trip to the United States. Following dinner at their home one evening, Husain requested his hosts accompany him back to his hotel, saying he had something for them. In his suite, the artist had set up a small studio, and these two luminous paintings rested upon easels waiting to be taken to their new home.
This radiant painting has an unusually vivid palette, dominated by gold, red and blue, and appears at once compelling and tender. Here, the artist’s signature horse is an ornamented mare, affectionately looking over her young, energetic foal. Above the two horses, Husain inscribed an Arabic verse from the Hadith or sayings of Prophet Muhammad, which reads ‘God is beautiful and loves beauty’.
Painted as Husain approached the age of 100, looking back on a career that spanned more than half a century, this charming work seems to wistfully reflect on the cyclical nature of life, representing perhaps the artist’s imaginings of long anticipated reunions with loved ones including his mother, who he lost at a very young age.