Central Asian groom pasturing a horse


Historical period(s)
Yuan or Ming dynasty, 14th century
Ink and color on silk
H x W (image): 166 x 93 cm (65 3/8 x 36 5/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Ruth Meyer Epstein
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

China, groom, horse, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), WWII-era provenance, Yuan dynasty (1279 - 1368)

To 1970
Eugene Meyer (1875-1959) and Agnes E. Meyer (1887-1970), New York, NY, Washington, DC, and Mt. Kisco, NY [1]

From 1970 to 1992
Ruth Meyer Epstein (1921-2007), Scarsdale, NY, by descent from her mother, Agnes E. Meyer

From 1992
Freer Gallery of Art, given by Ruth Meyer Epstein in 1992 [2]


[1] According to the acquisition report, dated June 12, 1992, the painting has been in the United States since at least 1919. Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer started collecting Asian art in 1914 and in the following years they acquired a number of Chinese paintings, primarily from Charles Lang Freer’s dealers in Shanghai.

[2] See Ruth Meyer Epstein’s Deed of Gift, dated July 9, 1992, copy in object file.

Previous Owner(s)

Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer (1875-1959) and (1887-1970)
Mrs. Ruth Meyer Epstein


A turbaned Central Asian groom intensely watches over a white horse tied to a tree. The red tassel hanging from the bridle and the red string on the tail indicate the horse's high value and the likelihood that it was intended to be a gift to the throne. Such a theme-a foreign groom and a tribute horse waiting for imperial presentation-suggests that the original composition may have been created when China was under Mongol rule during the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) and contacts with Central Asia were particularly strong. Since several later paintings with identical or similar compositions are known, this work was most likely produced by a workshop during the subsequent Ming dynasty (1368-1644), when the horse trade with Central Asia was still an important economic factor.

Although the label slip in the upper right corner attributes this painting to Zhao Yan (died 923), a famous horse painter of the Five Dynasties period (907-960), this is certainly spurious. The true identity of the painter was lost with the replacement of a large rectangular piece of silk at the upper left of the painting, where his original signature probably appeared.

Joseph Chang, Associate Curator of Chinese Art
"Year of the Horse: Chinese Horse Paintings" exhibition label
2/10/02 - 9/2/02

Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum