Oil on canvas
Signed and dated lower left: F Roubaud/1889
This thrilling, energetic genre painting depicts a significant moment in a brutal national sport, one still practiced today in parts of Central Asia among Kyrgyz, Pashtuns, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Turkmens. The turbulent brushwork with which the artist conjures the scene is entirely in keeping with the subject; the intensity of the riders’ expressions matches the muscular urgency of the horses they ride. The painting’s title is taken from the name of this sport (buz is Turkic for “goat”; kashi means “bashing”), a violent tussle on horseback that has few rules but one ultimate goal: to get the goat across the line. One team must stop the other, using whatever means necessary – invariably violent force. Roubaud has chosen to depict a pivotal moment in the game, in which the rider who carries the boon stares, panicked and angry, at a truncheon-wielding assailant.
Horse riding has long been a national talent among the peoples of Central Asia. It is believed that the legend of the centaur – a creature with a horse’s body and legs, and the torso and head of a man – derives from an encounter between the ancient Greeks and these effortless, formidable riders. Dating from 1889, Roubaud’s take on Buzkashi represents the artist at the height of his powers, a period in which he achieved official recognition. At this time he had his first solo exhibitions in St Petersburg, Paris and Madrid; in 1890, he was admitted to the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts. His paintings are held in major national museums, including: the Russian Museum, St Petersburg; Panorama-Bordino Museum, Moscow; P. S. Gamsatova Dagestan Museum of Fine Arts and the A. Tacho Godi Dagestan State Museum, Machachkala; and the Museum of History of Azerbaijan, Baku.
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