The painted roundel in the center of this diamond-shaped wood panel features a rider in classical attire on a galloping white horse. A panel of this format usually depicted a coat of arms, but here it was adopted for a personal emblem. The unbridled horse-symbolic of vigor, ambition, or passion-carries a rider whose individualized features suggest it might be a portrait. Below, a cartouche holds the Italian inscription E cosi desio me mena (And so desire carries me along) taken from Petrarch's Canzoniere , written about 1342. The patron who commissioned the panel was probably a scholar and a humanist familiar with this text.
The Allegory of Passion has a rich history of ownership. On the back of the panel is the monogram HP , which stands for Henry, Prince of Wales, the older brother of Charles I and one of the first serious art collectors in England. Richard Symonds, a British diarist, next mentioned the painting as being seen in the "Closett of the Lady Anne Mary Howard" at Arundel House in London in 1653.