In the early Yuan period, when the ruling Mongols curtailed the employment of Chinese scholar-officials, the theme of the groom and horse-one associated with the legendary figure of Bole, whose ability to judge horses had become a metaphor for the recruitment of able government officials-became a symbolic plea for the proper use of scholarly talent. Zhao Mengfu painted this work for the high-ranking Surveillance Commissioner Feiqing, who may have been a government recruiter. Executed in early 1296, shortly after Zhao withdrew from civil service, the sensitively rendered groom may be a self-portrait.The striking geometry of the composition, made up of a series of prominent arcs in the figures of the horse and groom, and framed by the level ground line and vertical inscription, appears to have been constructed with a compass and square. The Chinese term "compass-square" (guiju) means "regulation" or "order." Thus, the painting may also be read as a metaphor for good government and, by extension, a measure of the artist's moral rectitude.