All good things must come to an end. When we first posted to this blog in December of 2014, I had relatively little experience with the NSLM collection. We had a collection of fantastic sporting materials, but much of it wasn’t in usable condition. Books were shelved in a disorganized fashion, it was easy to lose track of things in the Rare Book Room, and we had a huge backlog of archival materials waiting to be processed into the collection.

As the work of improving the organization of the collection proceeded, I was afforded the opportunity to really dig into the books, manuscripts, photographs, and archival materials in the collection. Every book came off the shelves to be recataloged, and that meant a chance to learn more about the collection. This blog has been a wonderful opportunity to share those materials with the outside world.

We’ve reached over 55,000 readers on this blog since we first began. Our posts have made the NSLM’s presence truly international, receiving views from countries across the globe. We’ve received comments, questions, and visits based on the content of our blog. I have accounted for 119 out of Drawing Covert’s 243 posts. I’ve learned a lot and have enjoyed my blogging greatly.

Drawing Covert will continue in the months ahead, but I will no longer be a contributor to it. I have taken a new position and will be leaving the National Sporting Library & Museum in the next few weeks. I’m grateful to our readers for their support and interest; you have made this blog a tremendous success by sharing it with friends and family. We’ve come a long way, and I’m excited to know that Drawing Covert will continue to provide fascinating sporting content in the future. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of it.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) from 2014 to 2019. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports.

“Invented by Thos Butler & Executed at his House. Pall-Mall, London, 1755,” read the prominent and legible inscription and date on one of the panels of the NSLM’s Sporting Screen.

The inscription that adorns the NSLM Sporting Screen.

On view in the exhibition, Deconstructed: The NSLM Sporting Screen, through September 15, 2019, this captivating object is presented in its recently conserved state. The screen is decorated with 18th-century themes. On one side are primarily horse and jockey portraits as well as Thoroughbred breeding and a mare and foal image.

(after) Thomas Butler (English, c. 1730-1760), Four-Panel Sporting Screen, c. 1860 (recto),
hand-colored engravings mounted on canvas, and oil on canvas mounted on a wooden frame, 81 ½ x 108 inches, Bequest of Sonia Phipps Seherr-Thoss, 2006

Thirty-two mounted and hand-colored subscription prints from the series, Portraits and Pedigrees of the Most Celebrated Racers from Paintings by Eminent Artists, published between 1741 and 1753, have been adhered to canvas and individually tinted. The full series included 34 engravings. NSLM’s screen features 31 unique images from the set and a repeat (Can you find it?). Underneath the hand-coloring, the square prints look like this:

“Plate 1: Starling,” Portraits and Pedigrees of the Most Celebrated Racers from Paintings by Eminent Artists, with portraits of the Jockeys, Published by Arundel and London, Thomas Butler, 1751-1753, 1753. © Abebooks.com

The engravings include the racehorses’ pedigrees, race wins, and crests of the owners: they are among the earliest attempts to produce a formal record of the emerging 18th-century British racing industry. John Cheny, Sr. oversaw the printing of the annually-produced prints beginning in 1741 until Thomas Butler of Pall-Mall, a bookseller and printmaker, took over their publication in 1750 after Cheny died, until the last one was printed in the series in 1753. The engravings are after the works of sporting artists James Seymour (English, 1702–1752) and Thomas Spencer (English, 1700–1765). The four paintings underneath the prints on the screen are also copies of 18th-century works by James Seymour: Fox, Aaron, Cato, and Slamerkin.

Paintings copied from the works of James Seymour (English, 1702–1752).

On the other side of the screen is a completely different 18th-century sporting theme, classic riding school imagery.

(after) Thomas Butler (English, c. 1730-1760), Four-Panel Sporting Screen, c. 1860 (verso),
hand-colored engravings mounted on canvas, and oil on canvas mounted on a wooden frame, 81 ½ x 108 inches, Bequest of Sonia Phipps Seherr-Thoss, 2006

The eight images are copies of illustrations in the 1729 book, Twenty Five Actions of the Menage [sic] Horse, a riding manual written and illustrated by artist John Vanderbank (English, 1694–1739). Trained in classic dressage, Vanderbank created a series of illustrations, many of which were reproduced in his publication.

John Vanderbank (British, 1694–1739), “The Manege-Gallop with the right leg” engraved as plate 14 in “Twenty Five Actions of the Manage Horse…,” 1729, pen, in gray ink, black ink, graphite, and gray wash on medium, slightly textured, cream, laid paper, 6 5/8 × 6 1/4 inches, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

“The Manege-Gallop with the right leg,’ Plate 14, “Twenty-Five Actions of the Manage Horse” by John Vanderbank; engraved by Josephus Sympson, 1729, National Sporting Library & Museum, Vladimir S. Littauer Collection

The date on the screen was a point of interest. On the surface, the riding school and horse racing images support the 1755 production date of the “Thomas Butler” inscription on the NSLM’s sporting screen. Butler advertised his shop’s ability to copy known sporting artist’s works, which would explain the production of the oils on canvas on the screen’s horse racing side and the imagery after the 1729 Vanderbank publication on the other.

The manner in which the paintings on both sides of the NSLM screen were executed, however, points to a later style. Here is an image of an actual oil on canvas by John Vanderbank for comparison to the manége images on NSLM’s screen:

John Vanderbank (British, 1694–1739), A Young Gentleman Riding a Schooled Horse, between 1728 and 1729, oil on canvas, 19 1/8 × 12 3/4 inches, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The recent work done by Conservator Deborah Parr on the screen in preparation for the current exhibition afforded NSLM a great opportunity to use scientific analysis to definitively answer the question of when the NSLM sporting screen was made.

Parr took paint samples from sites on the front and back of the screen and sent them off for pigment analysis. This is one of the images from the microscopic review:

Pigment scraping of “Slamerkin” at 1000x magnification contains a mix of
blue and yellow paints to create the color green, photo courtesy Natasha K. Loeblich, Conservator and Paint Analyst

The report confirmed that the pigment, Cerulean blue, was present in all samples, a “smoking gun.” Cerulean blue became available for purchase in 1859. The NSLM screen is, therefore, definitively, a 19th-century piece highlighting imagery produced in the 1700s, well before its construction.

One of the questions, I have received about this conclusive findings is whether or not we are disappointed. The result ultimately relates to a decorative object and not a mis-attributed work of fine art. It is fulfilling to be able to settle a research question and have a proven date to contextualize an object. It definitively tells us that sporting enthusiasts in the 1860s were drawn to antique sporting images for decorations in their homes.

Come out and see the exhibit! There is so much more to explore about 18th-century sporting artists and the conservation work that was done on the NSLM Sporting Screen.


pfeiffer

Claudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator at the National Sporting Library & Museum since the position was underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org

On March 24, 1933, the 92nd Grand National was run at Aintree. This year’s race was noteworthy for more than the typical large crowds: every publication commented on the fine running and beautiful weather.

A field of more than 30 horses made the iconic race of four-plus miles, and there were the usual falls and mishaps along the way. The victor of the day was the 25-1 horse Kellsboro Jack, owned by Mrs. F. Ambrose Clark. But she had “purchased” the horse from her husband earlier in the year.

From Kellsboro Jack Scrapbook, National Sporting Library & Museum ARchives Collection, MC0031.

F. Ambrose “Brose” Clark was an influential American sportsman of the early 20th century. Brose was the grandson of Edward Cabot Clark, a partner of the Singer Manufacturing Company. As a young man, he was a gentleman rider in steeplechase races and rode to hounds. AS a racehorse owner, he spent years in pursuit of victory in the world’s most famous steeplechase: the Grand National.

From Kellsboro Jack Scrapbook, National Sporting Library & Museum ARchives Collection, MC0031.

Clark purchased Kellsboro Jack in Ireland, naming him for the horse’s native town of Kellsborough. Kellsboro Jack was trained for the Grand National by Ivor Anthony, and reportedly the horse was treated exceptionally well — one local newspaper reported that the horse preferred to sleep bedded down in soft sheets. Preferential treatment was sometimes indulged for Clark’s horses; he once ordered a rocking chair loaded into a train’s boxcar so he could ride along with a favorite mount.

From Kellsboro Jack Scrapbook, National Sporting Library & Museum ARchives Collection, MC0031.

Clark suspected that 1933 was an unlucky year for his horses. Instead of taking chances on another unsuccessful attempt at Aintree, he opted to sell Kellsboro Jack to his wife Florence for £1. Mrs. Clark was an accomplished sportswoman herself, and maintained her own stable of racehorses. Kellsboro Jack would go on to win in record time: 9 minutes, 28 seconds.

From Kellsboro Jack Scrapbook, National Sporting Library & Museum ARchives Collection, MC0031.

Although the triumph of the day technically belonged to Florence, the ecstatic couple shared the victory together. Mrs. Clark declined the honor of leading in Kellsboro Jack, asking Brose to do it in her stead. Kellsboro Jack would be retired following his record-setting victory, but the horse was brought to hunt meets and to paddock at other races so friends and well-wishers could see him.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail 

In late 1947, William Woodward was absent from the Gimcrack Dinner, held at York. Woodward was the guest of honor, having won the Gimcrack Stakes with Black Tarquin. The Gimcrack Dinner was described by J. Fairfax-Blakeborough in The Chronicle of the Horse as “an occasion for historic speeches, for the announcement of new Turf policy, of alterations to rules and procedure.” Despite his absence, Woodward sent along a speech to be delivered by the Marquess of Zetland, and the topic was foreseeable: once again, Woodward lobbied for the repeal of the Jersey Act.

7thEarlOfJersey
Victor Child Villiers, 7th Earl of Jersey, for whom “The Jersey Act” was named. Image accessed via Wikipedia

The Jersey Act was not a government statute, as its name might suggest. Rather, it was named for Lord Jersey,  the senior steward of the British Jockey Club. Since 1913, the Jersey Act had effectively barred most American racehorses from recognition as Thoroughbreds in the General Stud Book, the register of Thoroughbred bloodlines for the British turf.

The Jersey Act pushed back against the influx of imported American bloodstock in the early 20th Century, following restrictions on gambling in the United States. The crackdown on gambling led to faltering racing prospects and a downturn in the value of horses for breeding. The new rule was expected to protect the value of British bloodlines by demanding bloodline purity.

IMG_20190403_164951
Beginning in 1913, the General Stud Book required all included horses to be able to trace their pedigrees back to a registered horse in the General Stud Book. The rule would become known as “The Jersey Act.”

Many American Thoroughbreds had flawed pedigree paperwork, in large part due in no small part to the loss of breeding records during the American Civil War. Without the ability to successfully prove lineage back to the General Stud Book, American horses were excluded from future registration. The American Stud Book, first published in 1873, was much more lenient in its pedigree requirements.

William_Woodward,_Sr
William Woodward, Sr. Image accessed via Wikipedia

Through the 1930s and into the 1940s, American critics of the Jersey Act made their objections heard loud and clear. They argued for inclusion on the basis of performance as American horses had become extremely successful on the British turf. Woodward, who was chairman of the American Jockey Club, was a leading critic of the rule.

IMG_20190403_164908
The American Stud Book, published by S. D. Bruce in 1873, only required five generations of pure lineage for inclusion.

In the end, the Jersey Act was overturned in the aftermath of World War II, when British breeding was left with few alternatives to improve bloodstock in the post-war era. By the time the rule was relaxed in 1949, American bloodlines were among the most successful in the world. It immediately removed the label of “half-bred” from some of the best competitors of the turf on either side of the Atlantic.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail