Isidore-Jules Bonheur made his Salon debut in 1848 with a painting and a plaster group of the same subject (no. 4619). As a painter his brushwork was relatively undistinguished, and the following year he entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, from then onwards concentrating solely on sculpture, whereupon his true talent became apparent.
Bonheur gained great success with equine figures and groups, and one of his important large equestrian studies, Un cavalier, époque Louis XV was shown in bronze at the 1879 Salon (no. 4816; an example sold in these rooms 29 October 2003, lot 257) alongside Le Grand Jockey (no. 4817), his best-known horse and jockey group. No doubt realising the commercial potential of these large equestrian groups, Bonheur exhibited them again at the 1883 Exposition Nationale (nos. 893 and 894) and, for a third time, at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle (no. 1690), where he was awarded the coveted Médáille d'Or.
Bonheur had a close working relationship with his brother-in-law, the celebrated Parisian founder Hippolyte Peyrol, who was married to his sister Juliette. These close ties resulted in the production of exceptionally cast and finely chased bronzes, often identified, as here, by Peyrol's miniscule cachet.
Christopher Payne identifies the horse in this group as Erno Blaskovich's Hungarian filly Kincksem, (see C. Payne, Animals in Bronze, Woodbridge, 1986, p.349, pl. H200) while the group has appeared at auction entitled 'Kincsem with Charles Madden Up'. Truly one of the greatest racehorses of all time, Kincksem ran undefeated from 1848-1853, winning 54 races in 5 countries.
Another example of this model sold Sotheby's New York, 8 June 1990, lot 170 ($25,300).