Lettera and Maria portrayed by the famous Zhang Xiaoyu

Mary and Letter the painting by Zhang Xiaoyu

Some time ago, the Horse Museum received a very special gift: a renowned Chinese artist named Zhang Xiaoyu decided to donate a portrait of Maria and Lettera (her horse) together.

Thanks to our Weibo page, Xiaoyu became aware of our collection and decided to embrace the project and want to be part of it. And so, directly from China, his beautiful painting was sent to us which is now an integral part of the Museum.

Zhang Xiaoyu, is a Chinese painter, also known as Xiaoyu, born in Suzhou in Jiangsu. He is both a famous artist and a renowned architect, and today he is a professor at the China Europe International Business School where he imparts his knowledge to young Chinese students. His artworks are exhibited in many countries around the world, especially in art collections in the United Arab Emirates, Australia and Japan and other countries.

Art according to Zhang Xiaoyu and the history of the Chinese horse

When Zhang Xiaoyu was six years old he made his first drawing with great meaning for his future: a reproduction of an ink painting by Xu Beihong that he loved and always kept with him.

Xu Beihong is a famous painter known for his unrivaled talent for fusing Chinese and European aesthetics, fusing a modern Western perspective with strong, simple strokes in traditional Chinese ink brushwork. In particular, he is famous for his horse paintings, most of which were done during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.

And it is so, naturally, that even the young Zhang Xiaoyu chose from a young age to depict a horse in his first drawing.


Zhang Xiaoyu

In the history of Chinese painting horses are represented either fat or thin; however, those painted by Xu Beihong have always been slender, tall and with a powerful character.

The thin horse sadness usually pronounced by literate painters was abandoned and replaced by Xu Beihong with vigorous positive and energetic optimism. A horse full of potential and power, which can become a symbol for China and its people.

To this day, Zhang Xiaoyu still identifies as a horse artist and it has become his signature theme, choosing to explore different mediums of art, be it oil painting, sculpture or installation art.

In analyzing Xiaoyu's work it is essential to understand the meaning of the central motif of his work, the horse: an animal that has accompanied man since the beginning of history, playing a crucial role in the development of civilization.

According to the artist it is not simply an animal but an image of ourselves and of civilization.

For example, the Great Wall of China was built as an eternal immobile and defensive monument against the horse and its speed. Marco Polo's stories tell us how Genghis Khan had developed a system of messengers made up of 300,000 horses along the most important routes, with more than 10,000 staging posts every 150 km, where horses could be changed.

China lived under the constant threat of invasion. And so, the horse's significance grew from the end of the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC) to the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-8 AD). Its military importance for defense and conquest prompted the sixth emperor of the Han dynasty, Liu Che, to start mass breeding such as to have 500,000 horses available for the exclusive use of the army. The preeminent role of the horse in the defense of China was maintained until the "golden age" of the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD). When the horse has become the object of glorification and esteem.


Zhang Xiaoyu
Zhang Xiaoyu
Zhang Xiaoyu

Maria and her horse Lettera

Maria and Lettera have been adventure companions for about 6 years. She is a 10 year old Holsteiner mare (German blood, show jumping). Maria is 26 years old and is the President of the Horse Museum Foundation, as well as the Administrator of an agricultural company near Rome, in Paliano.

Horses are the most important thing in Maria's life. Not only does she continue to ride a horse, despite her work, but these magical animals are part of her everyday life. All the branding of Donna Vittori – Borgo Agricolo contains the artistic image of a horse, designed by an artist and graphic designer. In addition to this, Maria travels a lot for the Horse Museum Foundation looking for artists who want to be part of the Museum and who work closely with horses.

Zhang Xiaoyu managed to perfectly convey the love between the two friends. He represented one of the tender moments of daily life in the stable. The painting appears very sweet, colored with extreme sensitivity as if to depict the innocence of feelings between woman and horse.

In Zhang Xiaoyu's work we can perceive the passion and sensuality that endows the work with masterful realism. Faced with this picture it is easy to feel empathy, to perceive something greater, a great respect for the love with the horse.

Maria  Vittori and Lettera
Maria  Vittori and Lettera
Maria  Vittori and Lettera


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