This coming Saturday is a big day in the horse racing world! You don’t need us to tell you that May 6 is the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville. The Virginia Gold Cup is also this Saturday, just down the road from us at Great Meadow in The Plains.

There are so many amazing horses, talented people, spectacular stories, and fun facts associated with both of these big events – we could never share them all. Here are just a few stories about some of the four-legged stars connected with the collections here at the NSLM.

Sea Hero
This long-shot bay colt won the Derby in 1993. Today, Sea Hero is the oldest living Kentucky Derby winner and is enjoying a life of retirement standing at stud in Turkey.

Sea Hero
Tessa Pullan (English, b. 1953), Sea Hero, 1995, bronze, on stone base, 88 x 29 ½ x 96 inches, including base, Bequest of Paul Mellon, 1999, Acquired 2014 [(c) Tessa Pullan]
Determine
One of the very few grey horses to win the Derby (only eight have ever done so), Determine won in 1954 – the same year the National Sporting Library was founded.

Man O’War
One of the most famous names in American horse racing never actually ran in the Kentucky Derby, but his progeny went on to win quite a few. The chestnut stallion’s offspring included 1937 Triple Crown winner War Admiral, and he is found in the bloodlines of most top thoroughbreds, all the way up to American Pharaoh (2015) and Nyquist (2016). Another son was steeplechaser Battleship, the first American horse to win the English Grand National Steeplechase in 1938.

Marilyn Newmark (American, 1928-2013), Man O’War, 1977, bronze, 10 ½ x 14 ¾ x 3 ½ inches, Gift of Jacqueline B. Mars, 2016.  Newmark, who is known primarily for her equestrian sculpture, created this posthumous portrait after referencing the many photographs documenting the champion thoroughbred.

Gallant Fox
Gallant Fox was the second horse to ever win the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont races (1930), and the first to be referred to as a “Triple Crown” winner by the press. Gallant Fox: A Memoir, written in 1931 by the horse’s owner, William Woodward, Sr., is one of the scarcest books ever printed by the Derrydale Press. The copy in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room here at the NSLM is numbered one of fifty (but the whereabouts of only five copies are currently recorded).

The Celebrated Horse Lexington, by Boston, out of Alice Carneal, and Churchill Downs, Derby Day, c. 1946, Published by Currier & Ives, Gift of Mrs. Parker Poe, 1978

Lexington
Lexington never ran in the Derby either. In fact, he died in 1875, the first year the Kentucky Derby was run. But Lexington was the leading sire in America for decades. This print in the NSLM collection features a portrait of Lexington after Louis Maurer (German/American, 1832-1932). The portrait is surrounded by images of the first 71 Derby winners – from Aristides (1875), up through Hoop Jr. (1945).

Secretariat
You can see a portrait of the 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, along with Derby winners Smarty Jones (2004), Barbaro (2006), and many other gorgeous thoroughbreds in our newest exhibition Andre Pater: In a Sporting Light.

Andre Pater (Polish/American, b. 1953), Secretariat, 2004, pastel on board, 20 x 24 inches, Private Collection [(c) Andre Pater]

Happy Race Day!

Since 1939, the Piedmont Foxhounds have hosted the Piedmont Point-to-Point races in Upperville, Virginia. The most prestigious race of the meet is the Rokeby Challenge Bowl, which, for decades, has attracted top horses in training for major steeplechase races. From 1939 until his death in 1999, the race and trophy were sponsored by Mr. Paul Mellon, who was a member of Piedmont and an avid supporter of jump racing. The winner of the race received a small trophy to keep and their names were engraved on a large perpetual trophy which they could keep for one year. Those who won the race three times (not necessarily consecutively or with the same horse) retired the trophy and could take it home for keeps. The trophies provided by Mr. Mellon were exquisite examples of silver and were highly sought after prizes.

The Rokeby Bowl, Piedmont Point-to-Point trophy, c. 1720, sterling silver, on wood and silver base, 15 x 10 ⅞ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mary Gillian Fenwick, 2016

One of the original silver Rokeby Bowl trophies has been generously donated to the NSLM by Mary Gillian “Gill” Fenwick. Mrs. Fenwick retired the Rokeby Bowl after winning the race three consecutive years, in 1961, 1962, and 1963. She was just the third owner to retire the trophy (five more have done so since then). Her winners were piloted by the famous steeplechase jockey Crompton “Tommy” Smith, Jr., all three years. The horses were Bay Barrage (1961), General Tony (1962), and Fluctuate (1963).

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Tommy Smith aboard Fluctuate, in the 1963 Rokeby Bowl steeplechase. Tommy Smith (1937-2013) was a five-time Maryland Hunt Cup winner and became famous for winning the British Grand National race in 1965 with Jay Trump.  Photo courtesy of Carol Fenwick. ©Howard Allen Photography, LLC

All three were talented racers. After winning in 1961, Bay Barrage ran again in 1962 with Olympic equestrian Frank Chapot on board. He placed third against his stablemate General Tony. Past Maryland Hunt Cup winner Fluctuate, nicknamed “Chris,” won in 1963 when he was 16 years-young and was rewarded with well-earned retirement.

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Gill Fenwick (right) and Tommy Smith (left) accepting the Rokeby Bowl trophies from Mrs. Thomas B. Glascock, Jr. (center) in 1961. Photo courtesy of Carol Fenwick. ©Howard Allen Photography, LLC

The original course was on Mellon’s Rokeby Farm property in Upperville. The race was 4 1/4 miles long, included 22 post and rail fences averaging 3’9″ high, and included two in-and-outs! In 1957, the point-to-point was relocated to the farms of Mrs. J. F. F. Stewart and Dr. and Mrs. A. C. Randolph along Route 50 in Upperville, now known as the Salem Farm course.

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Frank Chapot (1932-2016) on Bay Barrage in the 1962 running of the Rokeby Bowl. Chapot, who just recently passed away in 2016, was an Olympic medalist, USET coach, and world-renowned trainer, who also occasionally rode in steeplechases. Photo courtesy of Carol Fenwick. ©Howard Allen Photography, LLC

The trophy itself has more stories to tell. The bowl is almost 300 years old, dating to the year 1720. The plain silver punch bowl is hand-engraved with an image of a horse and jockey and inscribed with the words “Silver Tail’d Betty” and “Banbury Town Plate 1720.”  Town Plates (flat race meetings) were held in towns all over England for centuries. Prior to the establishment of the Jockey Club in the early 1750’s, each meet featured its own set of rules. The town of Banbury is located in Oxfordshire, in Southern England.

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Detail of Rokeby Bowl trophy, with engraving of horse and jockey and “Silver Tail’d Bettey”

After Mr. Mellon acquired the bowl, he added a tiered wooden base with sterling silver bands and donated it to Piedmont for the race. The NSLM is grateful to Mrs. Fenwick for gifting this special piece of racing history to the collection. It has traveled a long way since it was first used as a race trophy in 18th century England, then awarded at steeplechase races in 20th century America, and now has a home on display at the NSLM.

The 76th running of the Piedmont Point-to-Point takes place Saturday, March 25th at the Salem Farm course in Upperville, Virginia. For a schedule of all the Spring Steeplechase races, visit the Virginia Steeplechase Association calendar.

This year, the NSLM is fortunate to have received numerous gifts of art from several generous donors. One such gift is a rare set of 22 hand-colored aquatints from 1807 and 1808, Orme’s Collection of British Field Sports: Illustrated in Twenty Beautifully Coloured Engravings from Designs by S. Howitt – an impressively long name for an impressive set of works on paper. Published by Edward Orme of London (who proudly labeled himself as “Printseller to the King”)  the series features scenes of hunting, shooting, and racing. The works were recently donated to the NSLM by George and Susan Matelich and Family.

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(after) W. M. Craig (English, c. 1765-c.1834), Engraved by James Godby (English, active 1790-1820) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820), Orme’s Collection of British Field Sports: Illustrated in Twenty Beautifully coloured Engravings from Designs by S. Howitt (Title Page), Published by Edward Orme, January 1, 1807 hand-colored aquatint, image: 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George & Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.01)

Originally housed in a large folio case, the prints are now framed individually. Yet all 20 plates, plus the title page, list of plates, and the original illustrated folio cover are still together. Oftentimes, these types of works are broken up and sold separately, never to be reunited. Full sets are rare.  Another complete set that is still bound as a folio can be found in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art.

(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822) Engraved by James Godby (English, active 1790-1820) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820) Horse Racing Published by Edward Orme, January 1, 1807 hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George and Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.04)
(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by James Godby (English, active 1790-1820) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820), Horse Racing, Published by Edward Orme, January 1, 1807, hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George & Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.04)

Samuel Howitt was an artist known for his images of hunting, animals, and equestrian scenes. This set includes some of his best works and was a prized collection piece. Often described as a highly important set of English sporting images, these prints are excellent examples of the popular sporting art being produced at the beginning of the 19th century.

(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822) Engraved by James Godby (English, active 1790-1820) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800-c.1820) Stag Hunting 1 Published by Edward Orme, March 1, 1807 hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George and Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.07)
(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by James Godby (English, active 1790-1820) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800-c.1820), Stag Hunting 1, Published by Edward Orme, March 1, 1807, hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George & Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.07)

The engravings are titled in both English and French. They are in excellent condition, with colors that are still vibrant – no small feat for fragile works on paper that are 210 years old. Deep reds and blues are usually the first to fade.

Detail of Stag Hunting 1
Detail of Stag Hunting 1, showing the fine condition of the blue and red colors

Each are numbered and feature the name of the artist, printmaker, and engraver in small script along the bottom edge.

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“Sam’l Howitt del.”

For those of you who have prints hanging on your walls at home and have wondered what the abbreviations stand for, here is a quick Latin lesson:
del. is short for delineavit, meaning  “Drawn By”
excudit means “Printed by” or “Published by”
sculp. or sculpt. is short for sculpsit, which means “Engraved by”

(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by John Clark (English, active 1775-1825) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820) Shooters Going Out in a Morning Published by Edward Orme, March 25, 1808 hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George and Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.03)
(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by John Clark (English, active 1775-1825) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820), Shooters Going Out in a Morning, Published by Edward Orme, March 25, 1808, hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George & Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.03)

The List of Plates includes a charming image of a hare. The same hare can be found in the collection of the British Museum in London.

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(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by J. Swaine (English, 1775-1860), Hare, Published by Edward Orme, March 9, 1808, 24 x 32 cm, British Museum, Donated by Nan Ino Cooper, Baroness Lucas of Crudwell and Lady Dingwall, In Memory of Auberon Thomas Herbert, 9th Baron Lucas of Crudwell and 5th Lord Dingwall, 1917 (1917,1208.3170)
(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by John Clark (English, active 1775-1825) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820) Pheasant Shooting 1 Published by Edward Orme, June 1, 1807 hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George and Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.13)
(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by John Clark (English, active 1775-1825) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820), Pheasant Shooting 1, Published by Edward Orme, June 1, 1807, hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George & Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.13)

These works are now part of the growing collection of prints and drawings in the NSLM art collection and we look forward to putting them on view soon. You can see other works on paper from the permanent collection in the special exhibition Picturing English Pastimes: Sporting Prints at the NSLM, currently on view in the Museum. Curated by visiting John H. Daniels Fellow Jennifer Strotz, this installation of late 18th and early 19th century prints focuses on the British print market and equestrian subjects.


Nicole Stribling is CuNicole Stribling is Curator of Permanent Collections at the NSLM. She has worked at the NSLM since December 2012. As Curator of Permanent Collections, she catalogs and cares for the fine art collections and manages the registrar duties for the collection and loans, coordinating packing, shipping, and insurance arrangements. Prior to the NSLM, Nicole worked at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, in the American and British Paintings Department and in the Exhibitions Department. She earned her BA in Art History from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia and is currently pursuing her MA in Museum Studies at Johns Hopkins University.rator of Permanent Collections at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM). She catalogs and cares for the art collection, which includes paintings, sculpture, works on paper, and decorative arts ranging from the 17th through 21st centuries. Have a question about the NSLM collections? Contact Nicole by email.

The 62nd annual meet of the Virginia Fall Races was held at Glenwood Park, Middleburg, this past Saturday, October 8th. Last year’s race day was perfect, sunny weather, but this year featured lots of rain! That didn’t keep us from enjoying a great day of racing though.

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Rainy weather makes for muddy horses and jockeys at the Virginia Fall Races! (Photo by Perry Mathewes)

The Virginia Fall Races features the Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championship in the morning, and nine races over the rolling turf course in the afternoon. Funds raised from the event benefit Inova Loudoun Hospital. The National Sporting Library & Museum Cup, held since 1955, is run in memory of Fall Races co-founder, Mr. George L. Ohrstrom, Sr., and long-time race supporter, Mr. George L. Ohrstrom, Jr.

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The trophies for the day were displayed on a table out of the rain under the announcer’s stand. The NSLM Cup trophy and this year’s keeper trophy bowl, are just left of center.

Saturday’s precipitation made the course footing soft, but it held up fairly well. And, luckily for us, the rain tapered off just in time for our race. This year’s NSLM Cup was won by the Irish-bred Two’s Company, owned by Bruton Street – US, trained by Jack Fisher, and piloted by jockey Sean McDermott. The 7 year-old bay gelding beat six other horses over the long 3 1/4 mile timber course. It was anyone’s race until the tightly packed group was well into their third and final lap of the course. McDermott took the lead with just two fences to go, and won by almost 7 lengths. In second place was the 2015 NSA Timber Horse Champion, Grinding Speed; third was Puller; and fourth was Canyon Road.

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Two’s Company and Sean McDermott ahead of Pured It and Gerard Galligan (Photo by Douglas Lees)

 

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Two’s Company and Sean McDermott in the blue and yellow silks of Bruton Street – US (Photo by Douglas Lees)

Two’s Company is having a successful season so far. With the NSLM Cup as his fourth win of the year, the horse is now ranked first in purse winnings for 2016. Bruton Street – US, Fisher, and McDermott are all ranked among the very top owners, trainers, and jockeys in timber racing. And McDermott has appeared in our NSLM Cup photos before – in 2015 he won aboard Straight To It, another horse trained by Jack Fisher.

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NSLM Cup Winner’s Circle: (left to right) Jacqueline Ohrstrom, Melanie Mathewes (NSLM Executive Director), Juliana May (NSLM Cup Trophy Donor), Michael and Ann Hankin, Sheila Fisher, and jockey Sean McDermott.

A big thank you to those of you that came out to support the races despite the rainy weather!

Six of the horses from the NSLM Cup lineup (including Two’s Company) have been nominated to compete against each other again in the International Gold Cup on October 22, at Great Meadow in The Plains. Fingers crossed for nicer weather that day!

Many of the works of art in the NSLM collection show gallant wins, bucolic scenes, or noble portraits. And some show the slightly less noble side of equestrian sport. Many sporting artists – who were oftentimes equestrians themselves – showed their sense of humor about the inevitable:  when a rider parts company with her or his horse. Below are just a few examples from the permanent collection which show riders and their mounts parting ways.

John Ferneley, Sr, (British, 1781-1860), The Hunt in Belvoir Vale, c.1835 oil on canvas, 48 x 133 in. Gift of Kathryn James Clark in memory of Stephen C. Clark, Jr., 2013
John Ferneley, Sr, (British, 1781-1860), The Hunt in Belvoir Vale, c.1835, oil on canvas, 48 x 133 inches, Gift of Kathryn James Clark in memory of Stephen C. Clark, Jr., 2013

This mural-sized painting by John Ferneley, Sr., shows a hunting scene in England’s Melton Mowbray, in the 1830s. The group of huntsmen shown in the foreground have all been identified. However, if you look closely, you can see a fellow in the background (who remains nameless) begrudgingly following behind his horse on foot.

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One of the exhibitions currently on view in the Museum, Picturing English Pastimes: British Sporting Prints at the NSLM, includes several works by artist Henry Thomas Alken. His panorama of the 1818 Epsom Derby features a parade of spectators heading to the races – some of whom can barely control their mounts.

Henry Thomas Alken (English, 1785-1851) Epsom Races – The Derby Day, 1818 hand-colored aquatint, each 2 ½ x 20 inches Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman R. Bobins, 2012
Henry Thomas Alken (English, 1785-1851), (detail) Epsom Races – The Derby Day, 1818, hand-colored aquatint, each 2 ½ x 20 inches, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman R. Bobins, 2012

The illustrations of American artist Paul Brown (1893-1958) are much loved by riders and non-riders alike. With his published collections of drawings titled Spills and Thrills, Good Luck and Bad, and Ups and Downs, he became famous for capturing crashes and near misses at equestrian events in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.

Paul Brown, Happy Landing, 1933, pencil and ink on paper, 8 1/2 x 11 1/4 inches, Gift of Boots Wright in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Riegel, 2013
Paul Brown, Happy Landing, 1933, pencil and ink on paper, 8 1/2 x 11 1/4 inches, Gift of Boots Wright in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Riegel, 2013 [(c) Paul Brown]
Inscription: Happy Landing – Louis D’Or pecked – slid – scrambled and the boy went out on his mounts neck – Horse recovered with a great forward and upward thrust of his legs and a toss of his head. Up went jockey Harroway – up and off.  Llangollen Farms 1932.

Paul Brown, Mistakes and Great Recoveries, 1940, pencil on paper, 9 1/4 x 12 inches, Gift of Boots Wright in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Riegel, 2013
Paul Brown, Mistakes and Great Recoveries, 1940, pencil on paper, 9 1/4 x 12 inches, Gift of Boots Wright in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Riegel, 2013 [(c) Paul Brown]
Inscription: Mistakes and great recoveries by mounts and men – from Maryland, Virginia and Long Island

Paul Brown, Mike Phipps vs. Stewart Iglehart, 1933, pencil and ink on paper, 8 1/2 x 11 1/4 inches, Gift of Boots Wright in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Riegel, 2013
Paul Brown, Mike Phipps vs. Stewart Iglehart, 1933, pencil and ink on paper, 8 1/2 x 11 1/4 inches, Gift of Boots Wright in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Riegel, 2013 [(c) Paul Brown]
Inscription: “Mike” Phipps vs. Stewart Iglehart, A bump form behind by “Mike” – “Stewie” in the air – rolling boy – back in saddle again and the game went on. Meadow Brook 1931.

Cecil Aldin (English, 1870-1935), The Grand National Series: No. 3, Valentine's Brook, c. 1823, photogravure, Gift of Dr. Laura Jane Schrock
Cecil Aldin (English, 1870-1935), (detail) The Grand National Series: No. 3, Valentine’s Brook, c. 1823, photogravure, Gift of Dr. Laura Jane Schrock

 

Whether you are a 19th century fox hunter, or a 21st century aspiring Olympian, we all end up on the ground occasionally. The artists in our collection like to help remind us of that. Here’s to everyone keeping their feet safely planted in the irons!

The majority of works in the art collection of the NSLM are by British or American artists. However, we also have some excellent examples by continental European artists. Our only painting by a Dutch artist also happens to be one of the oldest paintings in the collection.

Portrait of a Horse in a Landscape, c. 1690, oil on panel, 18 7/8 x 23 ¼ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mrs. Henry H. Weldon, 2008
Portrait of a Horse in a Landscape, c. 1690, oil on panel, 18 7/8 x 23 ¼ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mrs. Henry H. Weldon, 2008

Portrait of a Horse in a Landscape was painted by Abraham van Calraet (Dutch, 1642–1722) around 1690. Calraet was from the city of Dordrecht, in the southwest region of The Netherlands. He lived and worked during the later half of the great Dutch “Golden Age,” a time of amazing artistic production, when artists like Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals, and Judith Leyster flourished. Calraet painted still lifes, landscapes, and small horse portraits, or “Pferdeporträts,” which were increasingly popular in the late-17th century. He likely studied with another Dordrecht painter, the more well-known Aelbert Cuyp (Dutch, 1620-1691). Both artists often signed their works with their initials “A.C.”, which led to some confusion. For many years – centuries, actually – works by Calraet were attributed to Cuyp. In many instances, Cuyp’s signature was falsely added to the paintings. It wasn’t until the early-20th century that scholars started identifying which of those works were actually by Calraet.

Calraet_head detail

The dark bay horse in the NSLM painting has a broad chest, substantial build, and a kind eye. He is shown standing in a field with no tack and no humans to be seen, though he is shod and clearly well cared for. Most of the background is made up of sky and clouds. The landscape below features a small group of cows lounging near the river bank (a common scene in Dutch paintings of this time period). The modestly sized oil painting is on wood panel, rather than canvas.

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detail of hooves, with horseshoe nails
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detail of cows in background

It is not known whether the painting was commissioned by the owner of the horse, or if the artist chose the subject because it would sell well on the open market. But we do know that the exact same dark bay horse appears in another Calraet painting from the same time period.

Abraham van Calraet, Horses in a Marsh Landscape, c.1690, oil on panel, 15 x 20 1/8 inches, Private Collection
Abraham van Calraet, Horses in a Marsh Landscape, c.1690, oil on panel, 15 x 20 1/8 inches, Private Collection

Here the dark bay has been joined by a chestnut friend, and a more typical Dutch landscape (with a meadow and windmills) is shown in the background.

Another Calraet work which bears similarities to our painting is in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

A Brown and White Horse with a Saddle Beside It, 1675-1685, oil on oak panel, 13 ½ x 17 ½ inches, Victoria & Albert Museum, Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend, 1868, © Victoria & Albert Museum
A Brown and White Horse with a Saddle Beside It, 1675-1685, oil on oak panel, 13 ½ x 17 ½ inches, Victoria & Albert Museum, Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend, 1868, © Victoria & Albert Museum

Like the NSLM piece, this painting is also on wood panel, and a lone horse is the focus. While this horse is a paint, the conformation and sweet expression are very similar to our dark bay. The background is much darker, and the foreground here shows barnyard supplies – a 17th century saddle and tack, a curry comb and brush, a bucket, and a clog shoe. All three of these paintings include a feature the artist and his contemporaries often incorporated into compositions – the tree or tree stump in the very near foreground.

The NSLM’s Calraet horse is quite well traveled (those Dutch warmbloods are such jet setters). During its lifetime, the painting has been included in exhibitions in London, Dordrecht, Paris, Birmingham, Alabama, New Orleans, and Baltimore, Maryland.  In 2008, the work came to stay at its new home here at the NSLM, when it was generously donated by Mrs. Henry H. Weldon.

Portrait of a Horse in a Landscape is currently on view in the permanent collection galleries of the Museum. Stop by and meet him soon!

Of the many treasures here in the collections of the NSLM, some objects tell more stories than others.  The four-paneled Sporting Screen is a rare and special piece that seems to always be remembered by our visitors. The free-standing screen features the work of many different artists, includes imagery of 18th century horsemanship and racing, and connects directly with books and manuscripts found in the Library’s F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room. It’s a perfect fit for the NSLM collection, and was generously donated in 2006 through the bequest of Sonia Phipps Seherr-Thoss (1919-2006).

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Four-Panel Sporting Screen (recto), mid-18th/19th century, hand-colored engravings, and oil on canvas mounted on wooden screen, each panel: 81 ½ x 27 inches, Bequest of Sonia Phipps Seherr-Thoss, 2006

The front of the screen (the “recto” side) features 32 individual, hand-painted prints of 18th-century British race horses and four oil paintings. The prints, which include pedigree, ownership, and the winning records for each horse, were first published in 1741 by the painter and printmaker Thomas Butler (British, active 1750-1759). Portraits of the same horses also appear in the beautifully illustrated book The Sportsman’s Companion: or Portraitures, Pedigrees, and Performances of the Most Eminent Race Horses and Stallions (Published in 1820). A copy is held in the Library collection.

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Portraiture of Cato, Drawn and engraved by James and Henry Roberts, in The Sportsman’s Companion . . . (London: 1820). Note the decorative  illustration at the bottom of the page which features the same style horse blankets depicted above.

The back of the screen (or the “verso”) features completely different types of scenes showing early 18th century equitation and training.

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Four-Panel Sporting Screen (verso), mid-18th/19th century, hand-colored engravings, and oil on canvas mounted on wooden screen, each panel: 81 ½ x 27 inches, Bequest of Sonia Phipps Seherr-Thoss, 2006

Painted after original drawings by the artist John Vanderbank (British, 1694-1739), the scenes illustrate a variety of advanced dressage movements. The same Vanderbank illustrations appear in the 1729 horsemanship manual Twenty-five Actions of the Manage Horse. An unbound copy of this book can also be found in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room.

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The Volte Reversed to the left, drawn by James Vanderbank and engraved by Josephus Sympson, in Twenty-five Actions of the Manage Horse (London: J. Sympson, 1729). “Manage” (also spelled “Manege”) refers to the art of training riding horses, like today’s dressage. The “Volte” is an exercise for flexibility, completed on a small circle. The authors describe it as the “best lesson to make a horse’s shoulders pliable.”

Caring for an object like this presents unique challenges. The screen is made of wood, oil paint on canvas, prints on paper, leather borders, and metal hardware. These materials are all very sensitive to climate conditions (meaning temperature and humidity), as well as light. Those of you who have been to see the screen in person may have noticed the light levels in the gallery are kept rather low, to protect the fragile materials from overexposure and fading. In order to allow the screen some time to rest out of the light, we will soon be moving it into the Museum’s art storage room. We will use that time to have it carefully evaluated – and eventually conserved – by expert art conservators, in order to preserve and protect it.

Screen_detail-1 We look forward to having this great object cleaned up and put back on view soon! To learn more about the art collections and the library collections, visit NationalSporting.org