No other work of art has affected me as powerfully as this lithograph has, by the French artist, Jean Louis André Théodore Géricault, in 1821. The drawing is called AN ARABIAN HORSE and while I may have seen it before; I was stunned and felt like I was seeing it for the first time.
My mare, whom I affectionately call "Mimi" is Princeton Maarena, one of the last living Serr Maariner daughters. She is beautiful and so incredibly typey. Within the course of a day, I will look at Mimi and observe the manner in which she is standing or even, just relaxing, nothing special. And yet, I notice the details that make her so special, so extraordinary from other horses. I notice the prominence of her bone structure, the extreme shape of her head, the graceful angle of her neck as it meets her head, the fine texture of her coat and mane hairs, the quality of her dark and thin skin, like tissue paper, the curviness of her body, the flowing lines, the smoothness of her outline, her silhouette. To even the most unknowing about breed type, Mimi is classic, for the characteristics which unmistakably stamp her as a purebred Arabian horse. And then, to unexpectedly encounter an antique drawing of a horse who is the physical representation of my mare from a couple hundred years ago, not only underscores all that I have learned up to this point but reaffirms how I feel about my little mare...
she is everything I have ever wanted, all in one horse.
The Géricault lithograph was part of the GIFT OF THE DESERT exhibit at the Museum of the Horse in the Kentucky Horse Park, which I visited this past summer and remains one of my favorite memories from my visit. Before I saw the lithograph, I understood that "Mimi" possessed qualities that are rare, unique and as I continue to study the breed; I am learning that these special qualities are inherent to the Nejdi type of horse:
The Nejd--a province of Saudi Arabia. Area, approximately 1 million sq km. Population, approximately 4 million, 40 percent of which is nomadic. The capital is Riyadh. Comprising a rocky plateau sloping eastward from the mountains of the Hejaz, it is sparsely settled, except for a few fertile oases. The primary occupation of the populace is nomadic stock raising. Agriculture is practiced in the oases, where wheat, barley, durra, dates, pomegranates, peaches, and citrus fruits are grown. Raw agricultural products are processed in the cities and hand-crafted goods are made. There are military-related industrial plants in Harad and a cement plant in Riyadh.In the fifth century and the first half of the sixth, Nejd was ruled by the Kindah, an Arab clan. From the seventh to the ninth centuries it was first part of the Arab caliphate and then of other feudal political formations on the Arabian Peninsula. In the 18th century Nejd became the center of the Wahhabi movement; the Wahhabis established the Saudi emirate, a feudal theocratic state that existed (with interruptions) in the 19th and early 20th centuries. After World War I, the Saudi emirate of Nejd led the struggle for the unification of northern and central Arabia, which led to the formation in the mid-1920’s of a dual kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd, known as Saudi Arabia since 1932.-from the free dictionary by Farlex
The landmark study titled Hanan: The Story of an Arabian Mare and of the Arabian Breed by Hans Joachim Nagel, like the Géricault lithograph, has become for me, the most important reference book which I have ever owned. I find myself reading and studying this book, over and over, each time finding something new, that I had missed before. At this point in my life, I see the Hanan book and the Géricault lithograph as inseparable companions, complementary to each other, as the lithograph illustrates all that Dr. Nagel presents in his book concerning the Nejdi type. The lithograph is a strong visual reinforcement of a type which remains elusive and rare.
Up until the 19th century, the Bedouin tribes in Central Arabia lived in isolation, from the rest of the Middle East. The long-term effect on the breeding population of the Bedouin horses was significant, as the qualities that enabled a horse to survive in this challenging environment, as well as for the traits selected by man, over thousands of years, became the unique characteristics that this horse would become known for. When Mohamed Ali the Great invaded the Nejd, the horse became a prize of war and taken to the stables of the viceroy, in Egypt, spreading the influence of the Nejdi horse farther and wider in the world.
This is the horse that I have been chasing all of my life and the type of horse that I remain steadfast and loyal to, for this horse, the Nejdi type, is the original, authentic and representative for all of the traits that the Bedouin admired and selectively bred thousands of years ago to insure its survival in the desert. This is the horse which turned the heads of people like Abbas Pasha, Ali Pasha Sherif, Lady Anne Blunt and Prince Mohamed Aly Tewfik a long time ago. This is the horse who has been admired on canvases all over the world. I am grateful for the wisdom to understand this, so that I could not only recognize this type of horse for my own self but to also help others, to understand the significance of the Nejdi horse, in the hope that I can be a very small part in the perpetuation of this classic type. And so, this blog continues to evolve in its mission, as we search for the classic Nejdi horse, all for the love of a horse.
Happy New Year,