Set before a khan or hostelry in the Caucasus, most likely Dagestan or Chechnya, during the Russian occupation of the region during the protracted Caucasian War fought between 1817 and 1864, Brandt's painting is a fascinating observation of an encounter between Cossack mercenaries in the employ of the Russian Empire and local Muslim tribesmen.
Though on opposing political sides, this did not stand in the way of commerce between the occupants and occupied: a group of horse traders has come to town to show off their mounts. The handler stands at the back, while the rider in the foreground demonstrates his steed to the interested Cossack buyers, being accosted by the man with the whip. Other traders look on: a fruit seller on the ground, another perched on the wall displaying a panoply of wares, including on the left a Kazak triple medallion rug, and on the right a Caucasian kilim.
Brandt travelled to the Ukraine as early as 1860. The beauty of the eastern marches left a lasting impression on him, and the region subsequently became one of the main settings for his paintings. In 1862 he moved to Munich where he trained under the celebrated painter of horses and armies, Franz Adam (1815-86), honing his skills as a horse painter. Out of these two experiences evolved Brandt's distinctive and dramatic subjects, which won him international acclaim.
The present work is recorded in the Pruszak Family Archive and in the artist's photo archive held in the National Museum in Warsaw (inventory number: DI 39637 MNW).
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