To Horse!
Majestic Portrait of Syrian Master of Stables at Bonhams 19th Century Art Sale

Arab horses have long been associated with status, wealth and power – think of Napoleon astride his Arab stallion Marengo in Jacques-Louis David's famous painting Crossing the Alps. Coveted by Imperial and Royal stables for use as cavalry mounts, they made impressive and opulent gifts such as, for example, the eight Arabian horses given by the Imperial Austrian Royal Consul in Aleppo to His Majesty the Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary in 1824. The Consul's Master of Stables in Aleppo was detailed to accompany the horses to ensure that they arrived safely. A portrait of the man charged with that duty, Ropen Carabit, by the Italian painter Felice Schiavoni is one of the stars of Bonhams 19th Century and British Impressionist Art 'behind-closed-doors' sale on Wednesday 3 June. It is estimated at £20,000-30,000.

Born in Arabkir, Carabit was 24 years old when, in February 1824, he was appointed to accompany the horses to Trieste. Schiavoni painted this majestic and ceremonial portrait to mark the safe arrival of the young man and his equine charges, after a journey that would have taken more than a month.

Aleppo was at the time a highly influential trading centre between Iran, Iraq and Europe. Its central location served as the transit point for goods - especially prior to the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. The Imperial Royal Honorary consul in Aleppo who made the gift of the Arabian horses was Elijah de Picciotto, son of Raffaele de Picciotto, a Jewish merchant from Livorno who had himself served as consul between 1784- 1818 during which time he had made a similar gift to the Imperial Court. The de Picciotto family served as consuls to the Austrian Emperor until 1894, and indeed made something of a career out of consulships, being at various times, representatives in Aleppo of many other states and countries, including Tuscany, Russia, Prussia, Holland, Belgium and the United States.

As subjects of European monarchs, consuls held unique positions in Aleppo and were sources of information, innovations and useful for hospitality. They were primarily used by Aleppo factions to communicate with the Ottoman authorities, other local factions as well as the foreign governments they represented.

Felice Schiavoni was born in Trieste and was taught to paint by his father, the renowned artist Natale Schiavoni (1777-1858). He subsequently attended the Brera Academy in Milan and was later awarded a prize and medal by Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. During his artistic career, he completed a large number of commissions for Russian patrons in Venice, and also painted altarpieces for churches in Trieste, Istria and Chioggia.

The sale will be a live 'behind-closed-doors' auction. An auctioneer will be present on the rostrum, and bids will be accepted in the following formats: online, on the phone, or by leaving an absentee bid. All bidding will be done remotely in accordance with the latest government guidelines.

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