This picture was commissioned by Jacob Bell who was one of Landseer's most important patrons. It portrays Bell's mare 'Old Betty'. Bell originally wanted Landseer to depict the mare with her foal. However, Landseer repeatedly put off the commission. By the time he was ready to paint 'Old Betty' the foal had outgrown its mother. In introducing a donkey into the composition Landseer was using a device popular with many other animal painters, whereby the donkey's rough coat is contrasted with the sleekness of the horse.
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Sir Edwin Henry Landseer (...)