27 November 2022

Sunday, 22:46


Latvian artist Alla Dzevaltovska captivates us with her paintings of Karabakh racehorses made famous by Lermontov



Alla Dzevaltovska is an artist from Riga who loves painting animals, although she can't explain why! Could it be that there are more honest truths in them than in anything else? Although her art ranges from beautiful urban landscapes to portraits, she regards herself as a painter of animals: in other words, she is an animalist. It is odd, but she can capture the "facial expression" of an animal and convey its soul so precisely (you don't deny that animals have a soul?), that you want to write about it, as if it were a portrait painting, or rather a creation of images: of a lion, a fish, a horse. Still, it's better to call it a racehorse, because there will be more truth in this definition. There are two small rooms in the Natavan Gallery with Karabakh racehorses round the perimeter. The Great Soviet Encyclopaedia tells us that the colours of the Karabakh horses are "red, gold-red, reddish-brown, light-bay, chestnut, grey and lemon-yellow with gold or silver tints". In days gone by the Azerbaijanis called these horses "kurat", which means a horse with stamina. This is how Mikhail Lermontov saw the characteristics of this breed of horse in his poem "The Demon": 

In Karabakh, a fiery chestnut, bred

Now as he passed the mountain brow, he stood

And gazed upon Aragwa's foaming flood

He pricked his ears and shivering pawed the ground,

The path is steep, and darkness closes round

This is how these powerful animals from the farm of the last khan of Karabakh, Mehdi Qulu Khan, were described in the Kavkaz newspaper (1853, No 44): "The oldest and best breed of this farm is known by the name Sarular, i.e. gold-bay: they are short in height - from 1 to 1.5 vershki; a fine head, akin to Arabic, prominent fiery eyes, open nostrils, small ears, but folded and a fine neck: except that the throat sometimes has a prominent Adam's Apple and, when the horse is being prepared for mounting the neck sometimes looks like that of a deer; a stout back, a well-fleshed croup, round rather than oblong, a fine tail, a full chest, muscular hind quarters, well-shaped back, the muscles and veins of the hind quarters are clear and strong and the knuckles sometimes rather long; these horses never overreach."

Horse breeding really flourished in Karabakh at the time of Mehdi Qulu Khan's daughter, Xursidbanu Natavan. Natavan's Karabakh racehorses took part in the world fair in Paris and at exhibitions in Moscow and Tiflis. And already then, in the second half of the 19th century, they took first places, receiving gold medals and commendations.

Today, the Karabakh racehorse is depicted in the emblem of the Agdam Football Club Qarabaq. And it is no wonder that the Latvian artist Alla Dzevaltovska, taking part in the International Arts Festival in Qabala in 2013, when she saw a racehorse, fell in love with it forever. It has to be said that Anna knows a lot about horses. What's more, she is a fine rider and knows how horses think. But she still prefers to associate with horses in a different way - not at the gallop. Because she sees the saddle and the bridle as a constraint on the perfection and independence of a horse. Could it be that Natavan used to prance about on a horse even though in those days oriental women were not supposed to act like amazons? And she was just as good as any man when it came to bringing up horses? Why should she, like Alla, not have been a fine horsewoman, too? And so, when she left for Latvia, the artist Alla Dzevaltovska began to paint Karabakh thoroughbred horses and this remained not just a happy memory of a country with an interesting culture, but also an emotional souvenir of a harmonious blend with peace. They say that horses have a telepathic gift and can read people even at a subconscious level. That is why we have such a discipline in medicine as therapeutic horse riding: i.e. treatment with the aid of horses. I'd like to think so. And believing this, I want to imagine Alla, cherishing the idea of creating a series of works under the title "Karabakh racehorses", mentally repeating the lines in the poem about horses. All that she knew and loved, and even what she had bad memories of.


"Stellar Horse"

His crest waves in the wind, sweeping the stars from the sky and carrying them in space, like the universe - dreams, happiness, joy and goodness, as in the fairy stories of childhood. He can take you as far as the horizon as he can, and as far you want to, too!


"Fire Horse"

It as if he has surfaced from the past, tearing through the thickness of centuries, disdaining the laws of lineation and destroying the skeptical views about the veracity of events! Is this Natavan's beloved horse? Is this not the horse on which she pranced like an Amazon, in spite of everything and against all the odds? The lively, fiery kurat! Under his hooves the ground mixed with the grass and leaves, his nostrils quivering in the heat of the race! It seems that any moment now we shall hear his snort, turning into a horselaugh. The fire horse! Dream and reality; fairy tale and fable. "I agree to run with the herd, but not with saddle and bridle!" He is calm and confident. Ahead lie the snow-peaked mountains and the foothills - and freedom. A free will, and happiness, feeling a part of this world. He goes on, not stopping for a moment. Walk and ye shall reach - and he knows that. Because in his veins runs the ancient blood of his forefathers - wild horses, thoroughbred racehorses.



Alla has written the accompanying texts to her works. Here is one of them: "Have you ever looked into the eyes of a horse? There is something magical and mysterious, and at the same time inquisitive in them…" As for me, to paraphrase the classics, I would like to say: "Why do you feel sad, horse? Don't be sad. There's no need. Everything will be all right. The winter and the spring will pass and then summer will be here. Horse! Good boy! All will be well: the soft breeze will blow and the ground will be covered in clover! And the sun's yellow disc will appear in the east in the morning and set in the west in the evening. But, don't be sad…"


"Dance of Love"

Horses dance against a white-hot, orange background. Horses, like people, have their own feelings, their own emotions. These two are dancing, like people. There is a smoothness and awareness of their partner in their movements. It is a dance of two people, a dance of love. It is possible only if souls, thoughts, wishes and aspirations are united. And the lines from Isaak Babel's tale "The Story of a Horse" come to mind: "We were overwhelmed by emotions. We both looked at the world, like a meadow in May where women and horses are walking." For these two dancing figures the end of the sentence would probably have been: "We looked at the world, like a meadow in May where we and people are walking"…

The racehorses of Karabakh - memories, stories, the realities of today. And the reality is that the fame of the Karabakh racehorses lives on. A thoroughbred racehorse called Zaman once left Azerbaijan and set off for the royal stables of Britain, a gift for Queen Elizabeth II.

The horse is a special animal - enigmatic and mysterious and one that has not been fully studied or understood. However, people have always said that the horse is the favourite of all the world's animals. An Arabic legend says that the Almighty, when he created the horse, said to it: "No other animal on earth can be compared to you: all earthly treasures lie between your eyes. You will trample my enemies under foot and carry my friends. They will read prayers to me from on your back. You will be happy all over the world, and you will be revered above all beings because the love of the master of the universe will be yours. You will fly without wings and fight without sword." Surely he was talking about the beautiful Karabakh racehorse?



Azerbaijani president orders support for the development of the Karabakh breed of racehorses 

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has signed an instruction on additional support for the development of the Karabakh breed of horses. In order to protect and develop the nuclear stock of the Karabakh breed of horses and selective breeding on a scientific basis, the head of state has instructed that 2 million manats should be allocated from the Azerbaijani president's Reserve Fund to the Ministry of Agriculture.