This item has received firm attribution to his career whilst there remains a cloud on several other sketches which have been linked to the Spanish master. The lack of documentation on his work in this medium has made it particularly hard to confidently attribute anymore of these.
You will also notice from the artworks featured on our Diego Velazquez drawings page that many of the remaining items are in relatively poor condition, making this beautiful sketch all the more important.
What we can gather from the available evidence is that Velazquez predominantly used sketch work as a way of practicing elements of later oil paintings, rather than producing artworks in their own right. He would also concentrate on human and animal anatomy as well as more detail facial expressions.
This drawing shows a combination of his handling of the human figure alongside horses from different angles. Horseback portraits were common throughout the Renaissance and Baroque periods, with artists choosing this format to portray soldiers and other military figures in powerful poses. See also several Peter Paul Rubens paintings and sketches.
This drawing can now be found at the British Museum in London. This institution has a fine collection of sketches from this artistic period but not all are on permanent display. They are believed to have acquired this item in 1850 and have held onto it ever since. It was produced in charcoal on ivory laid paper, where as most of his other drawings were in black chalk.
The final purpose of this drawing has never been completed agreed upon. Some have raised the probability of it being for a garden sculpture whilst others point out the frequency of horses within his own oil paintings. Very little is also known about those who followed on after Velazquez, and so it can be tricky to distinguish between his drawings and theirs.