Albrecht Adam enrolled at the Munich Academy in 1807. His talents were quickly recognized and encouraged by his professor, Georg von Dillis. At this early stage in his career Adam had already begun to specialize in equine subjects and battle scenes. In 1809 he was appointed court painter to the viceroy of Italy, Eugène de Beauharnais, Napoleon’s stepson, in Milan. His battle paintings and sketches based on first-hand experience of Napoleon’s campaign in Russia brought him widespread recognition. When Beauharnais, who had married Princess Augusta-Amalia of Bavaria in 1806, retired to Bavaria in 1815, Adam moved with him to Munich. He was appointed an honorary member of the Bavarian Academy in 1824. By this stage his paintings had brought him fame and fortune. He was to encourage his sons to take on work at his studio and all four advanced to become established artists in their own right. Dr. Ulrike von Hase-Schmundt has examined the present painting and points out that evidence of their contribution is recognizable in the landscape elements.
The portrait of the Arab thoroughbred depicted in the painting was very probably commissioned by the horse’s owner. Records show that Adam received other commissions of a similar nature. The owner may have been the then leaseholder of Schloss Blutenburg, a country seat west of Munich near Schloss Nymphenburg. Shown in the distance at the right, Schloss Blutenburg is a late-Gothic building surrounded by a moat fed by the nearby River Würm. The Schloss had been used by the ruling Wittelsbach family as a hunting castle up to 1825. In 1827 the family began to lease it out to private individuals. The horse, a highly-strung bay, is depicted shying away from a dog. The dog clearly belongs to two riders approaching at a gallop from the direction of the Schloss. Adam has depicted the sheen of its coat, its powerful, yet elegant muscularity and nervously flattened ears with extraordinary virtuosity. A small-format painting – also executed by Adam in 1832 – shows a horse in a similar setting, although in a stationary position. It is now held at the Munich Stadtmuseum.
In 1832, when Adam completed the present work, he was widely recognized as a painter of equine subjects. He received commissions from the Bavarian Court, the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, King Wilhelm of Württemberg, Metternich, Graf Rechberg and Duke Maximilian of Leuchtenberg, the son of Eugène de Beauharnais.