RIYADH: A life-size sculpture of Turfa, the Arabian mare presented by King Abdul Aziz to Britain’s King George VI as a coronation gift in 1937, is offering Saudis a ride into the past at its new home in Diriyah.
Made of bronze and weighing more than 444.5 kg, the spectacular sculpture is the work of leading American artist Karen Kasper, who took four years to complete the project.
After a six-week transfer from the sculptor’s studio to the Kingdom, Turfa became the latest addition to the heritage collection in Diriyah Arabian Horse Museum.
Princess Noura Al-Saud, head of the project and a culture and heritage specialist with the Diriyah Gate Development Authority, told Arab News: “This is the first life-size sculpture of King Abdul Aziz’s horse. It’s invaluable.”
Jerry Inzerillo, the authority’s CEO, said: “The Kingdom has always used the horse as an ambassador and a gift of goodwill.
“When people think about Arabian horses, they have good thoughts, positive thoughts — and that’s why the gift of the horse to countries not only preserves our culture and heritage, but also shows generosity.”
Richard Oppenheim, the UK’s deputy ambassador to the Kingdom, said that the Saudi royal family and their British counterparts shared a love of horses.
“The Queen has many horses, and King Salman and the Saudi royal family also have long-held love of horses,” he said.
King Abdul Aziz presented Turfa to King George VI in 1937 in appreciation for the hospitality he received during a visit to England on behalf of his father in 1919.
“There is a UK-Saudi connection because this particular horse was given to the British monarch at that time” Oppenheim said.
Prince Abdullah Bin Fahd, president of the Saudi Equestrian Federation, said that Turfa “is not only a noble mare but also a symbol of the generosity and authenticity of the people of the Arabian Peninsula.”
Arabian horses are a central part of the Kingdom’s history and civilization, he said.
“It’s enough to know that King Abdul Aziz was the last person in modern history who rode horses in his task to establish the state.”
The sculpture will be on view in the Arabian Horse Museum in Al-Turaif, a UNESCO world heritage site.