A view of the rear quarters of a skewbald mare, stood against a dark background, but with her head excluded from the picture. Freud painted the horse in its stable, at a riding centre for disadvantaged children close to his studio in Holland Park, London. The unusual composition is due to the fact that Freud felt that the head of the horse was weak, and deliberately excluded it.
Andrew Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire, began collecting and commissioning work by Lucian Freud after the two men became friends in the late 1940s. The Devonshire Collection now includes a number of works by the artist. Overall, Freud has painted six members of the 11th Duke's family over a period of 20 years.
It was the 11th Duke who was initially interested in acquiring Skewbald Mare for the collection, but he died before the sale was complete. The family decided to continue with the acquisition, particularly because his wife Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire had admired the painting, having viewed it at the artist's studio.