Antique oil painting by Pilny depicting the trade of a horse

By Pilny, Otto (Swiss, 1866-1936)


Beautifully lit by a twilight sky, this superb quality oil painting depicts a trade negotiation over an Arabian horse amid a desert expanse.


Questions about this piece?


This Orientalist scene is by the Czech-Swiss painter Otto Pilny (1866-1936). Like many of his contemporaries, Pilny was a great admirer of Orientalist subjects, and frequently travelled to North Africa to capture snippets of daily existence. He was a prolific painter, and his genre scenes – including this superb example from the Mayfair Gallery collection – are notable for their warm tones and vibrant atmosphere of desert life.

In the foreground, the viewer witnesses a trade negotiation taking place. The central standing Arab figure offers a beautiful white horse, which he gestures to with his right hand, to another Arab figure who is seated. The seated figure holds a Hookah pipe, and sits atop a richly patterned rug rendered in shades of green and purple. The two men are similarly dressed, in flowing patterned robes in palettes of cream, red, and blue. With its unique head shape and high tail carriage, the horse itself is likely an Arabian horse, a highly distinctive breed that dates to the 3rd century BCE. Its saddle has been removed and placed behind, so that the tradesman can show off the beautiful body of the creature. In the background, further tradesmen are seated in discussion, whilst a pair of camels graze behind them. Even in a desert landscape, Pilny is able to depict a scene filled with activity and character.  

The painting is marked by its exquisite painterly qualities. The gestural brushwork effectively conveys the differing textures, from the rolling sand dunes, to the fine horsehair, to the flowing robes of the Arab tradesmen. Pilny’s handling of light is particularly impressive, with the orange-toned sky casting a warm glow over all of the subjects.

The painting is signed ‘OTTO PILNY’ in the lower right corner of the canvas.

A highly desirable subject, this sensational painting would make a stunning addition to any collection of Orientalist art or antiques.

Canvas: Height 80cm, width 121cm
Frame: Height 102cm, width 142cm, depth 6cm


Artist / Maker
By Pilny, Otto (Swiss, 1866-1936)
Country of Origin
Date of Manufacture
Early 20th Century
Equestrian / Horses, Orientalist
Oil on Canvas


102 cm / 40.2 inches
142 cm / 55.9 inches
6 cm / 2.4 inches


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