I was excited to write about the addition to the National Sporting Library & Museum’s permanent collection of a painting by Henry Stull (American, 1851–1913), one of a generous gift of 16 works in 2020, currently on view in the Museum. I thought it would be a straightforward blog post announcing the work and sharing some information about it.

Henry Stull (American, 1851–1913), oil on canvas, 11 x 14 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Katrina Hickox Becker, 2020
Title plaque mounted on frame reads “BUCHANAN / Derby 1884 / I. Murphy Up Henry Stull”

The signed and undated composition depicts a chestnut horse with a blaze and a white sock and a Black jockey up wearing maroon racing silks with a red sash and a red cap. In the background, barns are visible. The frame bears the title “Buchanan / Derby 1884 / I. Murphy Up Henry Stull” referencing American jockey Isaac Burns Murphy’s win of the 1884 Kentucky Derby aboard Buchanan, the racehorse’s maiden race (meaning its first ever win). The desire for a painting of arguably the most talented jockey of his day, who would win three Kentucky Derbys in total, and the winning racehorse to commemorate a momentous tenth running of the Derby is perfectly understandable. In a short video presented by the Kentucky Derby Museum, Director of Curatorial & Educational Affairs Chris Goodlett gives a brief overview of Murphy’s career including an image of Buchanan at 0:20 sec.

Screenshot at 0:20 seconds – VIEW FULL VIDEO ON VIMEO HERE

When I watched the video, my suspicions were confirmed. I had come across the same image reproduced on a collectors card, “Buchanan, 1884” in a series titled “Horse Star Cards,”  published in 1991. The black and white photographic reproduction of another painting of Buchanan presents a horse with no blaze or white sock. The image source is Churchill Downs, the famed track in Louisville, KY, opened in 1875 that has been home to the Kentucky Derby since its first running.

Recto & Verso: “Buchanan, 1884” Horse Star Cards, #10, image: Churchill Downs/Kinetic [image source: https://www.ebay.com/itm/MINT-KENTUCKY-DERBY-TRADING-CARD-HORSE-STAR-CARD-BUCHANAN-1884-10-/124431676922 ]

The sporting artist Henry Stull who painted NSLM’s composition was also a racehorse owner and was known for his accurate equine portraits. The unnamed artist of the second painting seems to have had a competent understanding of horse anatomy as well. The technique of the latter bears strong similarities to works by animal artist Harry Lyman (American, 1856–1933) who painted other early Kentucky Derby winners: Aristides, the first winner of the Kentucky Derby, and Spokane in 1889. Both artists made a living painting accurate portraits of horse conformation (the physical shape and structure of an animal). The differences between the works point to the extreme likelihood that they depict two different horses. As it is unlikely that Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum would possess inaccurate records of its winning equines, it is almost certain that NSLM’s painting is not of Buchanan.

Maybe you are asking yourself why I would so readily accept the possibility that the title plaque on the frame would have inaccuracies. Labels such as these can be added at any time, and I have come across many over the years that turned out to have errors. I research with the idea that I expect to find anomalies. With time, memory fades and legends are made.

Detail of painting by Henry Stull in the National Sporting Library & Museum collection

This approach then begs the question of whether or not the sitter is Isaac Burns Murphy. The painting is small, 11 x 14 inches, and there is not much detail in the facial portrait. Although Murphy tragically died of heart failure at the age of 34 in 1896, he won at least 500 races in his career alone, leaving much to be researched.

Further complicating the picture (no pun intended), the latter quarter of the 19th century was an exciting time in horse racing history in which not just Murphy but a number of winning Black jockeys dominated the sport and broke race records. Several attained success and fame riding for numerous racehorse owners until, with the spread of Jim Crow laws, they retired or left the American racing scene for Britain and Europe.

Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton and Willie Simms, for example, were just two racing at that time who also won Kentucky Derby races. Clayton was the youngest jockey to win the Derby in 1892 at the age of 15 and took first place in an impressive 144 races in the 1895 season. In the same year, Simms was the first Black jockey to compete in Britain and was an international sensation. He was among the first to ride with short stirrups, handily beating his contenders riding in the traditional long stirrup seat at the first Spring meeting in Newmarket, England. Simms was reported in the 07 April 1895 St. Louis Dispatch to have been paid a salary of $12,500 and an additional incentive of $5,000 to go oversees that year, totaling an equivalent of over $500,000 today!

The black and white photos of Clayton and Simms above show intriguing similarities of jockey silk patterns to the NSLM’s Stull painting and warrant a dive into registered racing colors and race records for comparisons. I revel in going down these rabbit holes, but for now, I am sad to leave you with more questions than answers. As I continue to pursue a confirmation of the identity of the jockey, we must content ourselves in the meantime with the knowledge that the sitter personifies the young men whose epic careers lost footing in sporting memory in the Jim Crow era and resurgent prejudice. Progress has been made in the past decades to recover the storied careers of these gifted horsemen, but as this painting illustrates, there is much that remains to be done. We celebrate the triumphs and athleticism of these talented individuals whose names must be recorded, remembered, and revered.


Claudia Pfeiffer is the Deputy Director and George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator at the National Sporting Library & Museum and has been with the organization since the position was first 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

The old adage goes, “Opportunity knocks but once,” but sometimes it’s twice. Two-weekends ago we had the second opportunity to showcase the National Sporting Library & Museum at the Washington Winter Show (WWS). Each year they invite a museum to exhibit at American University’s Katzen Center in Washington, DC, during their charity antique show in January. This year, they ventured into the virtual world due to COVID-19 with a theme of “@Home with the Washington Winter Show” and welcomed previous exhibitors to present live tours and pre-recorded segments. We went live in the Library (thanks to Clarice & Robert H. Smith Educator Valerie Peacock’s camerawork) and uploaded a virtual 360° guided tour of our current exhibition, Thrill of the ‘Chace: Steeplechase in Art.

Screen shot of virtual 360° guided tour of Thrill of the ‘Chace: Steeplechase in Art

Coincidentally, WWS’s theme eight years ago was “The Thrill of the Chase,” and we fit right in. NSLM was asked to curate the exhibition at the Katzen Center, and we jumped at the opportunity. We highlighted art and books including our 49-inch-long silver coach which was even featured on the front cover of the catalogue, and I wrote an essay, “Sporting Pastimes: Art & Objects of Leisure.” It was a great chance to introduce NSLM’s then-new Museum, which had just opened a little over a year earlier, to a broader audience. A primer on the history of five country sports, the exhibit was broken up into five sections: angling, wingshooting, coaching, foxhunting, and horse racing.

2013 Washington Winter Show catalogue front cover featuring: Park Drag Tabletop Centerpiece, c. 1910, English sterling silver on a marble and wooden base, complete with custom-built, mahogany travel case made by Elkington & Co. Ltd. Silversmiths, London (not pictured), 17 ½ x 41 ½ x 9 ½ inches (excluding the base)
Museum purchase with funds donated by: Hector Alcalde, Helen K. Groves, Manuel H. Johnson, Jacqueline B. Mars and Jacqueline L. Ohrstrom, 2011

The NSLM’s English sterling silver model of a park drag was the centerpiece of the installation, surrounded by a decorative coaching horn inscribed on the bell “London to Bristol 1805” and a set of four coaching prints after Henri D’Ainecy, Comte de Montpezat (French, 1817-1859), La Vie d’un Gentilhomme en Toutes Saisons: Printemps, Été, Automne, and Hiver. Published in 1846, the title of the set translates to the “Life of a Gentleman in All Seasons” and depicts pleasure driving in spring, summer, autumn, and winter.

Coaching display at the 2013 Washington Winter Show

Because the installation was only on view for four days, it allowed us to install several books in fanned positions to reveal their fore-edge paintings. Always popular on a rare books tour, these curiosities are made by clamping a book in a vise and painting a scene with watercolor on the edge. Once completed, the book is returned to its natural position, and the page ends are gilt, masking the painting in the book’s natural position.

Fore-edge books from the John H. and Martha Daniels Collection in the 2013 Washington Show

It was an exciting time for the growth of NSLM’s art collection. At the center of the angling section in the exhibit was The Day’s Catch, 1864, by 19th century British artist John Bucknell Russell, one of a pair by the artist which had been recently donated by Dr. & Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan. Still-life paintings were popularized in Britain in the mid-1800s, and Russell’s highly detailed compositions of arranged fish on a riverbank were academic exercises showing his mastery in painting every glistening fish scale.

John Bucknell Russell (British, c. 1819 – 1893), Day’s Catch, 1864; oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches; Gift of
Dr. and Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan, 2011

Also on view were a set of three prints (after) Samuel Howitt (English, c. 1765 – 1822), Pheasant Shooting, Partridge Shooting, and Wild Duck Shooting. The 1809 first edition aquatints were among an impressive donation of 120 early 19th-century fine prints given to NSLM by Mr. and Mrs. Norman R. Bobins in 2012. The collection reflects the popularity country pursuits had attained across Britain and a revival of fine print making during this era.

Wingshooting section in 2013 Washington Winter Show with set of Samuel Howitt prints at left.

One of the museum collection favorites was also prominently on view, John Emms, Foxhounds and Terrier in a Stable Interior, 1878. The large oil painting set the bar for the growth of the collection as part of an incredibly generous donation of 15 British sporting artworks made by Felicia Warburg Rogan in 2008. Alongside the Emms hung a painting by American artist Franklin Brooke Voss, Portrait of Elida B. Langley, Aside on Sandown, 1921. The early 20th-century painting of a smartly turned out sidesaddle rider, represents the end of the time period in which highly skilled women participated in hunting, predominantly riding aside instead of astride.

FranlJohn Emms (English, 1841-1912), Foxhounds and Terrier in a Stable Interior, 1878, oil on canvas
39 x 52 inches, Gift of Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008
Foxhunting Section in the 2013 Washington Winter Show

In the exhibit, the Emms was also flanked by an 1850s light-blue hunt vest embroidered with running foxes and fox masks; the riding boots of philanthropist, sportsman, and art collector Paul Mellon; and a natural horn manufactured in 1898 by Coesnon & Cie., Paris. The latter is a style of large circular or “curly” horn used in stag hunts and in early English foxhunts before the traditional, straight short horn began to be adopted towards the end of the 17th century. While the NSLM’s Collecting Plan focuses on fine art, we have accepted a few objects such as these into the collection as well.

Detail of: British, mid-19th century, foxhunting vest, cotton on canvas lined with dark blue, medium blue and neutral polished cotton, brown leather facing, and brass buttons, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan, 2011

The racing section included loans relating to famed Triple Crown winner Secretariat. The iconic blue and white checked silks of Penny Chenery’s stable from Washington & Lee University collection drew viewers’ attention. Also selected for the display was Proctor Knott (The First Futurity, 1888, Jerome Park, Sheepshead Bay, a Close Finish), c. 1888, by Louis Maurer (American, 1832 – 1932). It is a study for the large painting of the first Futurity Stakes held in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame’s collection in Saratoga, NY. Shelby “Pike” Barnes is shown in the lead astride the bay racehorse Proctor Knott. Barnes was the leading North American jockey in both 1888 and 1889 and was the first jockey to win over 200 races in a year. Important scholarship (much of it done at the NSLM’s Library) has established the legacy of the highly-accomplished African-American jockeys like Barnes who who dominated the sport in the late 19th century and were sadly driven out by Jim Crow laws.

Horse Racing section in 2013 Washington Winter Show

It was an invaluable experience working on the exhibit in 2013, although I hesitate to call it “work.” This year’s show was surprisingly enjoyable as well—one “for the books” as they say. Just as with everything else related to the pandemic, it was a unique opportunity to bring in new friends and showcase what our organization has to offer. Here’s to a strong start to 2021!

2013 Washington Winter Show co-chair Mason Blavin, a much younger me; Jonathan Willen, Executive Director of the Washington Winter Show; and 2013 Co-Chair Anne Elmore

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

In the fall of 2018, the NSLM received a donation of several works of art, including a small canvas comprising several lion heads in various positions, paws, even a floating eye. It is small, measuring 9 1/8 x 12 1/2 inches. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a study by French artist Rosa Bonheur (1822–1899).

Marie-Rosalie “Rosa” Bonheur (1822-1899), Lion Studies, n.d.,
oil on canvas, 13 1/4 x 16 1/2 inches,
Gift of the Estate of Milton Ritzenberg, 2018.

As a student, and now instructor, of art history, I was rather excited to see this. To further set the scene, I had just started at NSLM and was still getting acquainted with sporting art and artists. So here was a familiar name. It was like traveling away from home and then, miles and states away, meeting a friend randomly at a restaurant.

Recently, I read an article in Smithsonian magazine entitled The Redemption of Rosa Bonheur. This threw me off – does she need to be redeemed? It sounded as if she had fallen from grace. Not so. It was more about bringing her back out into the forefront. I was rather shocked because, to me, she is in that pantheon of well-known, top tier 19th-century artists. I thought she was already in the forefront, but according to this article, in her home country, she has been relatively forgotten.

In the event you are unfamiliar with her, please let me introduce you.

André-Alphonse-Eugène Disdéri (French, 1819-1889), Rosa Bonheur, 1861-1864, albumen print on cardboard, 3 5/16 x 2 1/16 inches. Getty Center, 84.XD.1157.2203

Marie-Rosalie “Rosa” Bonheur was born into an artistic family. Her father, Oscar-Raymond, was an occasional art teacher and her brother (one of three artistic siblings), Isidore, became a sculptor (One of his sculptures is in the NSLM’s collection). Like most artists, the tomboy Rosa loved to sketch from a young age. According to The Art Story, her mother, Sophie, suggested her daughter learn the alphabet by having her draw an animal whose name began with each letter. Bonheur “always credited her, and this moment in life for her enduring love and deep understanding of animals.” Her father believed in the socialist ideas of theorist Henri de Saint-Simon, which promoted, amongst many things, equality of the sexes, including in education. Since women were not generally admitted to official art schools (sketching the nude models was considered improper for women), training was often conducted with an acquaintance, family friend, or, as in Bonheur’s case, her father. She clearly had talent and he encouraged her to go to the Louvre and copy the Old Masters, as was traditional. However, as they both shared a passion for animals, he also recommended drawing from life and the local assortment of livestock and horses. This all created a solid artistic foundation for someone who would become one of the great Realist and animalier artists.

I do want to point out that even though all the above sounds very cheerful, her upbringing was far from it. Her father left his family at times to live with other Saint-Simonian members in, ironically, a utopian society. The family was quite poor and struggled to make ends meet and then her mother died when Bonheur was 11. They were so poor that Sophie was buried in a pauper’s grave.

In 1841, at the age of 19, Bonheur exhibited at the Paris Salon with two paintings: Goats and Sheep and Rabbits Nibbling Carrots. At the Salon of 1849, Bonheur showed Ploughing in the Nivernais, a commission from the state. It does not get much more Realist than this, this is one of those paintings that is a sensorial experience. You can hear the cowherders and the oxen as they trudge along, you can feel the dirt beneath your feet, and you can smell the earth and the livestock.

Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), Labourage nivernais (Ploughing in Nevers), 1849, oil on canvas,
52 3/4 x 102 1/4 inches, © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / DR

Perhaps her most well-known painting is The Horse Fair. This enormous (8 x 16 ½ feet) painting was completed in 1853 and was called “the world’s greatest animal picture.” It actually went on tour throughout England, seen by no less than the Queen herself. Smaller versions were created and sold, as were prints. The original went to auction in 1887 and was purchased by Cornelius Vanderbilt for $53,000 (over $1.3 million today), which he then donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where it still resides (Gallery 816 if you are interested). This reaction is remarkable for an animalier artist as the subject matter was not treated with the same regard as historical or portrait painting, considered the loftier genres.

Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), The Horse Fair, 1852-55, oil on canvas, 96 1/4 x 199 1/2 inches,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Cornelius Vanderbilt, 1887

Bonheur took the idea that her father gave her, to paint from life, and ran with it. She attended horse and livestock markets, animal fairs, and slaughterhouses. She wore men’s clothes to these events, as it allowed (in every sense of the word) more freedom. To do so, Bonheur had to apply for special permission from the police.

Permit allowing her to wear men’s clothing. Her doctor completed it, citing “for reason of health.” Copied from Smithsonian Magazine’s article, The Redemption of Rosa Bonheur, November 2020 (Claudine Doury)

At home on the outskirts of Paris, in her chateau that she purchased from the sale of her paintings, she kept a small menagerie she would use as models. This included sheep, monkeys, dogs, birds, horses, and the occasional tiger and lion, which brings us back to our small study. We do not know when or what it was created for, perhaps it was simply an exercise or maybe it was preparation for one of her many lion paintings, like The Lions at Home (1881) below?

Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), The Lions at Home, 1881, oil on canvas, 64 x 103 inches,
Ferens Art Gallery, KINCM:2005.4763

Regardless, it is fascinating to see an artist’s process. The sketches seem to hint at what is to come: if the study is this good (I particularly like the fur on the paws), imagine what the final product will look like. It is interesting to think that the quick sketches that she probably thought little of upon completion is now something very special.

Her abilities emanate from her paintings: the shadows on the backside of a horse, the clumps of dirt, the furrowed brow of a lion – we come for the subject and stay for the Realism. Even in the sketches, the different shades of the lion manes, the curve of the mouth, the whiskers, all attest to her skill.

Lion Studies

In 1865, Bonheur became the first woman to receive the Légion d’Honneur. Twenty-nine years later, she was raised from a Chevalier to an Officier. In these later years, even though she and her art were well respected, Realism was no longer popular. Representational art is cyclical and it was, once again, falling out of fashion. Claude Monet’s revolutionary Impression: Sunrise had debuted at the Paris Salon in 1874 marking the rise of a new movement. 

On the surface, Lion Studies gives insight into an artist’s process – I see Bonheur flicking her brush over the canvas, muttering edits to herself. More broadly, though, it represents an artist reclaiming her due. Whenever a museum shows one of her works, whether a small study or a large oil painting, more of her reemerges.

Sources:

The Art Story, Rosa Bonheur

Britannica, Rosa Bonheur, Kathleen Kuiper

Smithsonian Magazine, The Redemption of Rosa Bonheur, November 2020

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

As someone who, prior to 2012, had very limited knowledge of sporting art and artists, culture, etc., I had absolutely no idea who Mr. Jorrocks was. In March 2020, right before the pandemic stopped the world, we received a generous bequest from Mrs. Katrina Becker, a faithful friend of the museum for many years. Included in this gift was a portrait of a man with a cheery expression on his face. He made me laugh and I asked our George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Curator Claudia Pfeiffer, “who is THAT?!” She enlightened me that it was, in fact, the illustrious Mr. Jorrocks, a popular fictional character from 19th-century England.

Created by Robert Smith Surtees in the early 1830s, Mr. Jorrocks was featured in serials in the New Sporting Magazine and then in 1838, he was promoted to book form, beginning with Jorrocks’ Jaunts and Jollities; or, The Hunting, Shooting, Racing, Driving, Sailing, Eating, Eccentric and Extravagant Exploits of That Renowned Sporting Citizen, Mr. John Jorrocks, of St. Botolph Lane and Great Coram Street. Quite the teaser.

The titular character, Mr. Jorrocks, is a grocer from the city, with a sharp Cockney accent, who enjoys the sporting life. Depictions of him often show a corpulent man with a red face, generally (but not always, as seen below) in his scarlet hunt coat. He appeared in several books and was illustrated by such well-known sporting artists as Cecil Aldin (English, 1870–1935) and Henry Thomas Alken (English, 1785–1851).

R.S. Surtees’ Jorrocks’s Jaunts and Jollities, with illustrations by
Henry Alken; Longmans, Green & Co.,
Edward Arnold & Co., 1924, National Sporting Library & Museum

R.S. Surtees’ Jorrocks on ‘Unting, with illustrations by Cecil Aldin, E.P. Dutton, NY, 1909,
National Sporting Library & Museum

The writing is wonderfully colorful and descriptive. Listen to this: “He has lost his wig, his hat hangs to his back, and one side of his person and face is completely japanned with black odoriferous mixture. “My vig!” exclaims he, spitting and spluttering, “but that’s the nastiest hole I ever was in—Fleet Ditch is lavender-water compared to it! Hooi yonder!” hailing a lad, “Catch my ‘oss, boouy!” Tom Hills has him; and Jorrocks, pocketing his wig, remounts, rams his spurs into the nag, and again tackles with the pack, which had come to a momentary check on the Eden Bridge road.”

Isn’t this a beautiful cover? R.S. Surtee, Mr. Jorrocks’s Thoughts on Hunting and Other Matters, William Blackwood & Sons, Ltd. Charles Scriber’s Sons, 1925, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels Collection

Surtees has been compared to Charles Dickens for his social critique (Surtees and Dickens actually used the same illustrator, Hablot Knight Browne. Browne, known as “Phiz,” illustrated Hawbuck Grange for Surtees and several Dickens’ novels including Pickwick Papers and David Copperfield). Encyclopedia Britannica describes Surtees as “a mordant satirist. The snobbery, envy, greed, and ignorance that consume many of his characters are set down without geniality. His portrayal of provincial England just leaving the coaching for the railway era exposes its boredom, ill manners, discomfort, and coarse food, and its matter-of-factness makes admirable social history. Yet the descriptions of fast runs with hounds over open country leave the most lasting impression.” I’ve only read Jaunts and Jollities, so please do correct me if I’m wrong: but it seems like an interesting viewpoint – at times we seem to laugh along with Mr. Jorrocks and others, laughing at him.

The small painting of our favorite grocer within the NSLM collection is by artist and sportsman Raoul H. Millais (English, 1901–1999). Millais undertook commissions by several familiar names, such as King George VI and Winston Churchill. Classmates with John Skeaping (English, 1901–1980) and friends with Alfred Munnings (English, 1878-1959), he, perhaps not surprisingly, disapproved of Modernist art, calling it “the Picasso lark.” Our charming piece shows Mr. Jorrocks standing in front of his horse, which is almost as big as he is, with a jolly smile and holding a pint. He is wearing his customary scarlet coat and hunt cap as the hounds mill about behind him. They take up the entire canvas. Mr. Jorrocks looks directly as us, as if he is inviting us to join him.

Raoul H. Millais, Mr. Jorrocks, 20th c., oil on canvas,
9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Katrina Hickox Becker, 2020.

Does “Millais” ring other bells? Raoul Millais is the grandson of Pre-Raphaelite John Everett Millais (English, 1829–1896). He produced the famous painting of Ophelia (1851–52) and one of my favorites, Christ in the House of his Parents (1849–50). The details in that are extraordinary, and honestly, I could discuss the symbolism for hours (maybe another time).  

Sir John Everett Millais, Bt, Ophelia, 1851-52, oil on canvas, 30 x 44 inches, Tate Britain, London
Presented by Sir Henry Tate 1894 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01506
Sir John Everett Millais, Bt, Christ in the House of His Parents (The Carpenter’s Shop), oil on canvas, 1849-50, 34 x 55 inches. Tate Britain, London

In the town of Croydon, south of London, is a life-size sculpture of the famed literary foxhunter. Artist John Mills (English, b. 1933) was commissioned to create a sculpture for a Waites Construction site and, whilst discussing possibilities with the patron, the latter expressed his affinity for the fictional character. It was decided that a statue depicting a specific scene of Mr. Jorrocks would be erected: the “Surrey subscription hounds gathering for their hunt at Croydon and the chaotic ride that John Jorrocks made from Covent Garden to join the hunt.” We see a very animated Mr. Jorrocks on horseback, barely holding on, crashing through a real hedge.



Our painting will make an appearance soon. In the meantime, the Library has several of Mr. Jorrocks’ adventures in its holdings. Feel free to reach out to read them for yourself!

Sources:

Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Robert-Smith-Surtees#ref226264

Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hablot-Knight-Browne

Footprints in London: http://footprintsoflondon.com/2015/07/what-is-this-statue-of-a-huntsman-doing-in-croydon/

Isle of Dogs Life: https://isleofdogslife.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/jorrocks-and-the-isle-of-doggians-1835/

Raoul Millais obituary in the Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/obituary-raoul-millais-1128046.html


Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

As the mission of the NSLM states, we are committed to “preserve, promote, and share the literature, art, and culture of equestrian, angling, and field sports.” Two new temporary exhibitions cover all three of these areas.

The National Sporting Library & Museum reopened in limited scope on Friday, July 17. Greeting visitors in Gallery 1 is In Bronze: Herbert Haseltine featuring two new acquisitions: a pair of bronzes by American sculptor Herbert Haseltine (1877-1962), Percheron Stallion: Rhum and Percheron Messaline: Mare and Foal. They are part of the British Champion Animals series made up of 19 sculptures of prizewinning livestock including cattle, sheep, pigs, and horses created by Haseltine beginning in 1920.

In Bronze: Herbert Haseltine, on view until August 23, 2020.

Though several quarter-scale size sculptures were produced (one of which is also in the exhibit, Polo Pony: Perfection), it is believed that Haseltine produced only one complete third-scale set. It was purchased by Marshall Field in 1933 for Chicago’s Field Museum and then purchased by Paul Mellon in 1986, who donated them to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

The current exhibition, open only until August 23, places the Percherons within the context of other Haseltine sculptures in the NSLM’s permanent collection. The earliest sculptures on display are a pair of Portuguese Rejoneadores, horse-riding bullfighters. From there, Haseltine’s evolution as an artist can be followed through the room – the influence of Egyptian art and his experimentation with colors, sizes, and technique.

Portuguese Rejoneadores, a pair modeled 1921, gilded bronze, 12 3/4 x 11 1/4 x 4 3/4 inches, Gift of the Estate of Milton Ritzenberg, 2018.

In 1913, Haseltine began his quest to create his version of the quintessential Thoroughbred, inspired by the many horses that impressed him. Over the span of three decades, he continued to fine tune this composite concept, like an equine Dr. Frankenstein. One of those models is in this exhibition entitled The Thoroughbred and dated 1928. Finally, in 1949, he was satisfied with the result. That version, aptly named The Perfect Thoroughbred, sits next to 1928 model. See if you can spot some of the changes!

(left) The Thoroughbred, 1928, bronze on marble, 10 x 13 1/4 x 4 inches, on loan from a Private Collection; (right) The Thoroughbred Horse: The Perfect Thoroughbred, 1949, bronze, 13 x 14 x 5 5/16 inches, Gift of Edward H. Tuck, 2001

The second exhibition currently on view focuses on angling and a glimpse of field sports. Last fall, artist Dale Weiler and his wife, conservationist Loti Wood, generously donated one of his sculptures, as well as a watercolor by his father Milton Weiler (American, 1910-1974). The subject of both the watercolor, Matapedia Magic, and the sculpture, In Your Dreams, is fishing. These serve as a pleasant introduction for the next gallery, which feature paintings by Frank Weston Benson (American, 1862-1951) and Ogden Minton Pleissner (American, 1905-1983).

(left) Milton C. Weiler, Matapedia Magic, 1968 watercolor, 30 x 37 inches, Gift of Loti Woods and Dale Weiler, 2019; (right) Dale Weiler, In Your Dreams, cast 2009 bronze, 11 x 21 x 20 inches, Gift of Loti Woods and Dale Weiler, 2019

Within this gallery are five paintings thoughtfully donated by two different collectors, a private collector and Mrs. Frederic C. Hamilton. Made up of both oil on canvas and watercolors, the mediums add to the tone of the scenes. The thicker application of oils on Pleissner’s Heavy Water, St. John contribute further build-up to the moment of anticipation. If the brushstrokes had been lighter or looser, it could completely change the painting’s emotional charge. Likewise, the serene colors in Benson’s watercolor Lower Camp Pool provide a peaceful, almost lazy, mood. Amongst the angling artworks is a wingshooting scene, a watercolor by Benson in beautiful calming shades of blue.

From left to right: Ogden Minton Pleissner, Heavy Water, St. John, 20th century watercolor, 19 x 30 inches, Gift from a Private Collection, 2020; Ogden Minton Pleissner, Fisherman on the George Pool, 20th century watercolor on paper, 18 x 28 inches, Gift from a Private Collection, 2020; Ogden Minton Pleissner, The Bridge Pool, Ballynahinch, 20th century oil on canvas, 24 x 40 inches, Gift from a Private Collection, 2020; Frank W. Benson, Lower Camp Pool, 1928 oil on canvas, 32 x 40 inches, Gift from a Private Collection, 2020; and Frank W. Benson, Setting Out, 1926 watercolor on paper, 18 3/4 x 28 3/4 inches, Gift of Mrs. Frederic C. Hamilton, 2020

Along with the Weiler artworks, these paintings also highlight a theme of conservation. They were all (except for the sculpture) created during the mid-20th century when there seemed to be a nostalgia for the countryside and a yearning for nature. These paintings remind us to absorb what Mother Earth has to give us: to appreciate her abundance, yet leave no trace that we’ve visited.

In Bronze: Herbert Haseltine is only on view until the end of summer so be sure to see this unique exhibition of ten (!!!!) Haseltine sculptures all in one place. To purchase tickets and view our new safety requirements, please visit our website (click here).

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

In honor of Mother’s Day, I thought it appropriate to highlight a few sporting artists, who were also mothers, we have featured at NSLM.

New York native Jean Eleanor Bowman (American, 1917-1994) studied at the Grand Central Art School, the National Academy of Design, and the Scott Carbee School of Art. She became known for her equine portraits and counted influential equestrians amongst her many patrons, including George L. Ohrstrom, Jr., Paul Mellon, and the British Royal Family.

Jean Bowman Pentacost moved to Middleburg, Virginia, and married her second husband, NSLM co-founder Alexander Mackay-Smith in 1944. In 1980, she was one of ten artists who founded the American Academy of Equine Art. Though she is primarily known as a painter, she was also a sculptor and illustrator. She was the first contemporary American artist whose work was reproduced on the cover of The Chronicle of the Horse. Bowman had one son, John Pentacost, and was later a grandmother. She sadly died in a plane accident in 1994. In 2006, a retrospective of her, and fellow sporting artist W. Smithson Broadhead, was held at the Sporting Gallery in Middleburg.

In the collection:

One of our most recent acquisitions we received was a Jean Bowman painting, Eglinton and Caledon Hunt with Major Charles Kindersley as M.F.H. and Richard Kindersley as Whipper in. This painting was donated by Mrs. Lynne Kindersley Dole, the first librarian (1954-1977) of the National Sporting Library (now the NSLM) and the the daughter of Major Kindersley.

Jean Eleanor Bowman (American, 1917-1994) Eglinton and Caledon Hunt with Major Charles Kindersley as M.F.H.and Richard Kindersley as Whipper in, 1963 oil on canvas, 27 1/4 x 43 1/2 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Lynne Kindersley Dole, 2019
Detail of the artist’s distinctive signature, Eglinton and Caledon Hunt with Major Charles Kindersley as M.F.H.and Richard Kindersley as Whipper in

Another artist and mother in our collection is Clarice Smith (American, b. 1933). Born and raised in Washington, DC, Smith attended the University of Maryland and George Washington University, later receiving honorary doctorates from both institutions. Influenced by 19th-century artists James McNeil Whistler (American, 1834-1903) and Édouard Manet (French, 1832-1883) and 20th-century artist John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925), she produces a wide range of subjects, from still lifes to portraiture. Her first exhibition was held in 1985, and she has continued to regularly exhibit her works, both as a solo artist and as part of group shows. Her recognition extends internationally having exhibited in London, Paris, Zurich, Maastricht, and Jerusalem. In 2014, Smith had a solo exhibition at the NSLM, Clarice Smith: Power & Grace.

Along with her late husband, Robert, Smith is a notable philanthropist. An array of organizations and institutions have been the recipients of their generosity, from universities and historic sites to local and religious communities.

Smith is mother to three children, Michelle, David, and Stephen, as well as a grandmother. With her son David, she has created several books, including Afternoon Tea with Mom: The Paintings of Clarice Smith.

In the collection:

The NSLM is grateful for all Smith has contributed to the organization. Gallop, a three-paneled screen, was donated by the artist in 2015. It was recently highlighted in a virtual Gallery Talk.

Clarice Smith (American, b.1933) Gallop, 2009, oil with gold and copper leaf on canvas, on 5-paneled screen, 50 x 77 ½ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Clarice Smith, 2015 © Clarice Smith

Click here for the virtual tour of our permanent collection: see if you can find Bowman’s painting of Major Kindersley and Smith’s Gallop.


For a fun twist on the theme is a portrait of a mother created by an artist mother.

Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1875-1941) was a portrait painter in the early 20th century. She trained in the Paris studio of Frederick MacMonnies (American, 1863-1937) and was influenced by Sargent. Her patrons were movers and shakers within politics and society: the Vanderbilts, the du Ponts, and not least, she painted the first presidential portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Less known are the sporting portraits she produced. The sitters were “her” crowd, people she hunted and rode with, who were part of her social circle. But these were also influential individuals, like New York Senator Frederic Bontecou.

Rand was mother to three sons, Christopher, William, and John, as well as grandmother and great-grandmother to many. She was also the namesake to her first granddaughter, who followed in Rand’s footsteps, becoming an artist in her own right. Paintings of her sons were included the NSLM’s 2019-2020 exhibition, Leading the Field: Ellen Emmet Rand.

In the exhibition:

Also featured in Leading the Field was this painting of Mrs. Emily Bedford Davie. It is one of the few portraits in the exhibition not in sporting attire, though Mrs. Davie was an avid horsewoman. Her daughter’s portrait is also included in the show, Miss Emily Davie, ex-Whipper-in to the Aiken Junior Drag. Like many mothers and daughters, they look very similar. Click here to go to the virtual tour and see if you can find her! Unfortunately, the below portrait of Emily Bedford Davie was returned before the virtual tour was produced but here she is, looking absolutely lovely:

Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1875-1941), Emily Bedford Davie, 1933, oil on canvas, 28 1/2 x 19 inches, Collection of great-nephew B. McCashin

This is by no means all the mothers in our collection or on exhibit, but just a few women to highlight on the most special of days! Happy Mother’s Day to all Moms, Moms-to-be, surrogate Moms, Stepmothers, Moms who do double duty as Dads, Dads who do double duty as Moms, Grandmothers, and anyone you call Mom. And of course, a shout out to my very own Mama Bear!


Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org. This is the author with her mother, 1987

I wanted to introduce two new acquisitions that recently joined out permanent collection. In November 2019, the NSLM became the proud stewards of two third-scale bronzes by the sculptor Herbert Haseltine (American, 1877-1962). They arrived on-site in January to great fanfare from staff. And here they are!


On the right is Percheron Mare: Messaline and Foal and on the left is Percheron Stallion: Rhum. These two were part of a series of nineteen sculptures based on prized domestic animals, known as the “British Champion Animals.” In 1996, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts published a book on the series that included images of the sculptures accompanied by passages from Haseltine’s journals that describe meeting each of his subjects and his sense of their personalities. Much of the information here comes from that publication.

The subjects for Rhum and Messaline and Foal were owned by Mrs. Robert Emmet. Rhum won at the La Mortagne Show, 1919; First and Champion at the Royal Agricultural Society of England, 1921, 1922, and 1923; and was First and Champion at the Norwich Stallion Show, 1922, 1923.[1] Messaline won First at the La Mortagne Show, 1917, 1918, and 1919; First Show of the Royal Counties Agricultural Society, 1920; First and Group Prize at the Show of the Norfolk Agricultural Society, 1920; First at the Show of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, 1920; First Moreton-in-the-Marsh, 1920; First and Champion at the Show o the Royal Agricultural Society of England, 1921, 1922.[2]



Haseltine traveled to the Emmets’ home in Warwickshire, England to meet his models. The sculptor was clearly very impressed with his accommodations as he noted that each bedroom has its own bathroom.

Describing the stallion, Haseltine wrote, Rhum was “a grand specimen of Percherons – dappled grey, heavy of bone with powerful quarters, spirited head, a large expressive eye, and delicately shaped ears.”[3] Apparently Rhum was undisturbed by the artist, allowing him to take measurements and trace Rhum’s hooves. Haseltine also described the moment he chose to depict, “I represented the magnificent Rhum with head erect and turned slightly to the left, with his eyes accompanying this movement. His lips were beginning to quiver, preparatory to neighing, as he would do when he heard the mares being turned out in the nearby pastures.”[4]

Though the mare was “relaxed and patient-looking,” the foal took a little more patience. According to Haseltine, the foal “was the most difficult to model; he was always hiding behind his mother, and even when held by an obliging groom, was never still for one instance.” Looking at the model of foal, you can see the skittishness in his eyes. As Haseltine wrote, he “managed to convey the spirit of startled effrontery mingled with fear, as he pressed himself against the spacious flank of his protectress.”


Haseltine originally conceived of this as a group sculpture with all three horses together. Cast in plaster of Paris and covered in silver leaf, he exhibited them together at the George Petit Gallery in Paris in 1925 but decided to make them more true in-the-round sculptures and separated them as you see now.[5] Sculptures in-the-round are meant to be walked around and viewed from several different perspectives and he felt that grouped together, it didn’t allow for the same experience.


To give you an idea of their size, here they are next to Art Handler Alex.

Several versions in various mediums and sizes were commissioned by individuals and museums, which were detailed in Haseltine’s memoirs. There are six cast at this third-scale size.[6] The ones now in NSLM’s collection were commissioned from the artist by Mrs. Emmet. Both have a green-brown patina and Rhum has parcel-gilt bronze on his braid. They sit on a stone base with inscriptions that detail each horse’s pedigree, owner, and accolades with dates, along with the artist’s signature.


We look forward to sharing these with you once we reopen! Keep checking our Facebook and Instagram for updates and posts on objects in our collections and fun activities.

A hearty thank you to our donors and friends who assisted with this acquisition.

[1] https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=6235353&lid=1

[2] Malcolm Cormick and Herbert Haseltine, Champion Animals: Sculptures by Herbert Haseltine, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1996

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=6235353&lid=1

[6] https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=6235354&lid=1

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

I was recently at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond, Virginia with a friend, who is also the employee of a museum, and we were enjoying the Cast of Punt Reliefs from the Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri (here’s a link, it’s wonderful!). It’s a replica relief of the original and the only thing separating Us from It was a railing…how we wanted to touch it! Museum employees, who know better, wanted to touch! The lure of the hieroglyphics and depictions of underwater creatures was too much!

Look at that squid!
Detail of Cast of Punt Reliefs from the Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia.

One of the first rules at most museums is No Touching. But, why is that? The simplest answer is that the oils from our hands leave residue on the object and can create damage. You often see museum employees with the telltale gloves, protecting the objects from ourselves.

The image below shows what happens when metal is touched. This is from our dog collar collection – at some point, the metal was handled. This is not surprising, considering this was utilitarian object. It was meant to be used and it was. We can’t be upset by that. Now that it’s part of the museum’s collection, we need to preserve it the best we can and, since it’s metal, we wear gloves.

Every Collections Manager’s worst nightmare!
NSLM Dog Collar Collection, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan, 2015

If you’ve visited the Vatican, you may have heard that rubbing St. Peter’s foot will bring good luck or help you get into Heaven. Not just any sculpture (please do not run around Vatican City touching all the feet of St Peter you find), but perhaps it is the most famous one, attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio (Italian, c. 1240-1300/1310).

St. Peter Enthroned, attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio, bronze,
St. Peter’s Basilica

Take a look at those feet!!

Detail St. Peter Enthroned, attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio, bronze,
St. Peter’s Basilica

His right foot is almost completely gone and his left one looks like a hoof. Of course, this is over centuries of pilgrims and visitors coming into contact with his feet, so it is an extreme example. But it does give you an idea of what could eventually happen.

The rule of thumb has been to always wear gloves when handling objects, but interestingly, there are instances when gloves can actually cause more harm than good. Works on paper, like unframed prints, don’t require gloves because it’s possible that pre-existing tears can catch on the gloves and create further damage. As one professional writes, “Gloves make you clumsy.” Instead, we wash (and dry!) our hands thoroughly beforehand and ensure we don’t touch our faces, transferring any oils. This is harder than it sounds. It’s like when you’re supposed to be quiet, but then you can’t stop laughing. Once you start thinking about it, suddenly, your nose starts itching!

There are the white cotton gloves and the nitrile gloves. I prefer the nitrile because they fit better. I have found that the white gloves are either too big or too small, there’s no Baby Bear size, and having gloves that don’t fit right is a problem. You don’t want something to slip out of your hands because you don’t have a firm grip.

Seen as intimidating, some museums are trying to move away from this by having touching stations. During 2019’s NSLMology: The Science of Sporting Art, the chemistry section had a bronze mare and foal on display that asked visitors to touch.

Students at the Middleburg Charter School touching our study collection bronze,
Pierre-Jules Mene, Jument Arabe et son Paulain (Arab Mare and Foal), bronze on wooden base,
12 x 19 x 9 3/4 inches, Gift of the Estate of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Atkinson, 2014

The VMFA has a clever idea to educate visitors who are curious as to why we can’t touch, and that’s to show what happens when we do touch. In the lobby of the museum, near the ticket desk, there’s a touching station that presents an array of mediums found within the museum, like metal, fabric, and wood. Each sample has the top half covered by plexiglass and the bottom half exposed, encouraging people to touch. It shows how the materials are affected by continual handling: the area covered by plexi maintains its original condition whilst the exposed half reveals the damage incurred from the oils on our hands.


“Tempted to Touch” station at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia

As for us, we put our hands in our pockets like naughty children and laughed at ourselves that even museum employees are susceptible to the siren’s call to Touch Objects.

References:

Art History News, The white glove fallacy, published September 29, 2012

Image of St. Peter: Visit Vatican City

Image of St. Peter’s foot: Reach the World

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

I love my job. Period. Full stop. End of sentence.

George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Curator Claudia Pfeiffer and I travelled to New York City for the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Meet the Breeds event at the Jacob Javits Center, January 25-26, 2020. Two days of dogs, puppies, slobbery kisses, pats on the head (the dogs, not us), exhibition promotion, museum collaboration, and a few sneezes. Turns out, I have a slight allergy.

As mentioned in my previous blog entry on dog collars, the NSLM is partnering with the Museum of the Dog in New York City for the exhibition Identity and Restraint: Art of the Dog Collar. Selections from our dog collar collection will be displayed alongside artistic representations loaned by the Museum of the Dog. What better way to promote this than to go to the source?

American Kennel Club Meet the Breeds at Jacob Javits Center, NYC, January 25-26, 2020

The Museum of the Dog kindly allowed us to share their booth at the convention, where we set up a small display of collars and encouraged guests to visit the exhibition when it opens in 2021-2022. It was a great chance to spread the word, meet our colleagues at the Museum, and do a little research. We wanted to see some of the breeds, like the various hounds and dogs, we generally come across as a Sporting Museum.

Selection from NSLM Dog Collar Collection, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan, 2015

“Meet the Breeds” is not just a clever name. We literally “meet the breeds.” Each breed has its own booth with both human and canine representatives. As the AKC website states, “Almost 200 breeds of dogs and cats will be on site in elaborately decorated booths with elements from the breeds’ history creatively displayed as well as opportunities to learn from the experts about each breed in attendance.” This did not disappoint.

The sweet Scottish Deerhound was still waking up when we approached. She was certainly more interested in her owner’s glazed doughnut than the strangers who were hoping for a little love. She lived up to her reputation as being one of the taller breeds, coming up to our waists.

Scottish Deerhound enjoying a treat!

Another tall friend was Jamie, a Borzoi, who was particularly in love with Claudia. Jamie sidled up to Claudia for a scratch and then slowly started wrapping her nose around Claudia’s legs, not allowing her to move. When she was finally able to sidestep a little, Jamie inched along with her, head still pressed against her legs.

Jamie the Borzoi and Claudia

Finn, an Irish Red Setter, enjoyed letting us coo and scratch his ears. Secret, a Scottish terrier, allowed us to pet him as his owner gave us insight into the breed.

During our important research, we also wanted to see the dogs that were near and dear to our hearts.

Full disclosure: I grew up with dogs, but in the last decade, I’ve been a committed rabbit and cat owner. Being at the Javits Center, though, reminded me why dogs were my first loves.

Please bear with me as I briefly reminisce: my first dog was a Siberian Husky, Ninotchka, whom my parents brought home shortly after they were married. By the time I came along, she was an older girl who was very patient with two toddlers. After an incident with a larger dog who just wanted to lick me to death when I was five (the breed shan’t be named), I had a fear of all dogs that weren’t my beloved husky. That changed a few years later when I met Molly, my godparents’ Rhodesian Ridgeback. I would curl up with Molly and we’d fall asleep together after crashing from full bellies after Thanksgiving dinner. But, my number one girl was a German Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix, Annie, whom we adopted a few years after Ninotchka passed away. We were together for 13 years before Annie passed away at the old age of 15.

Thankfully I was able to see the brethren of my old friends here. I made a beeline for the huskies, where I met Foxy. Wearing black was a poor choice, but like everyone else there, I didn’t care. I just wanted to find a way to take Foxy back to Virginia with me. My plan was foiled, but Foxy did allow me to take a picture with her.

Can you come home with me?

I also gleefully saw the Ridgebacks and both German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers, who (not surprisingly) had a very long line.

Claudia saw a poodle, who looked just like her beloved canine companion, Kasey. After staring longingly for a few moments, Claudia decided to greet this doppelganger and quickly became friends. Claudia also had the luck of being on the receiving end of love from the cutest Staffordshire Terrier puppy we’d ever seen.

Have you seen a sweeter puppy?

Our booth was next to the Rottweilers and, decked out in their lederhosen and dirndls, they were extremely popular. When there was finally a small break in their crowd, we darted over to say hi to Maverick, who promptly backed up into me and sat on my feet. Not only were Maverick and his cohorts fashionably attired, but it helped dispel the negative stereotypes about this loving and biddable dog. This is one of the reasons why Meet the Breeds is so important: to inform and educate people, to provide the correct background and knowledge of the different breeds.

True Love!

Attending this event was wonderful in so many ways. Promoting the exhibition and getting such an encouraging response from the crowd was more than we could hope for and it was great to meet our counterparts at the Museum of the Dog. Identity and Restraint: Art of the Dog Collar is going to be a unique exhibition that will show how the relationship between humans and canines have evolved using tangible objects and fine art. But, also, it was rejuvenating. It had been a long week, a long drive to NY, and I was getting delirious. Walking sleepily into the convention center Sunday morning, I was instantly in a good mood getting kisses from the Akitas and Bergamese. We had fun recalling our pets from childhood and exchanging stories with our new colleagues and strangers alike, because nothing brings people together like a shared love of animals. Everywhere I looked, there was just an excitement and joy between attendees, both two-and-four-legged. Really, could there be a more wholesome event? In the words of wholesome Golden Girl Rose Nylund, “that’s dog love in your eyes!”

For more photos of dogs we were able to meet, check out our Facebook page or Instagram.

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

The permanent collection at the National Sporting Library & Museum has over 1,300 objects, including paintings, sculptures, works on paper, weathervanes, and dog collars. That’s right, dog collars.

Fifteen years ago, Dr. and Mrs. Tim Greenan began collecting dog collars, eventually amassing 187 of them. In 2014, they donated their entire collection to the NSLM, making the museum one of the largest (if not the largest) repositories in the world for these niche objects.

Dr. Greenan and the Curatorial department are developing an exhibition for 2022 that will display the objects alongside works of art that feature similar collars. The show will also highlight the relationship between dogs and humans and how that relationship has evolved throughout the centuries.

It’s hard to remember a time when dogs have not been Man’s Best Friend snuggling up on our laps and eagerly awaiting our return. Initially, they were trained for war, hunting, working, fighting, and scouting. The one shown below dates from the 18th century and is firmly utilitarian.  The spikes repelled attackers and protected the canine.

Dog Collar, 18th century, British, metal,
7 inches diameter x 1 inches wide

The brass one below would have been used for bear baiting or boar hunting. It is important to remember to not look at such collars through 21st-century eyes, but rather keep it in context of the 18th century. While we view it as cruel, bear baiting was considered a regular sport for all societal classes at the time. This collar is inscribed “WILLIAM ECKLES ISLAND HILL 1792.” The sharp sawtooth edges would have protected the neck of the dog wearing it.

Dog collar, 1792, British, brass,
6 inches diameter x 2 1/2 inches wide

The large horsehair collar below (and my favorite!) is from the 18th century, possibly from Goa, India. It is decorated with orange agate cabochons and is almost 12 inches in diameter. You can imagine that this is also quite heavy and would probably have been worn by a mastiff.

Dog collar, 18th century, possibly Goa, India, horsehair leather with agate cabochons and brass mounts with ring attachment
11 3/4 inches diameter x 2 7/8 inches height x 3 1/2 inches wide

As dogs were domesticated, they also served as a status symbol: the breed, pedigree, and, of course, the collar. Tiffany & Co., known for their wonderful and highly sought-after jewelry, also produced many everyday objects, including the below silver dog collar from 1831-1832. It is inscribed with the owner’s name, “GEO. H. INGERSOLL ./ NEW YORK.,” is adjustable, and came to the collection with the owner’s choice for a lock. It was not uncommon for dogs to be stolen, their identification to be removed, and then be resold on the street as dogs in need of a home. The lock served to discourage would-be thieves.

Dog collar, 1831-1832, American, silver,
4 1/4 inches diameter x 3 /4 inches wide

The inscriptions could sometimes be whimsical and silly.  The one below is from the 1920s or 1930s and reads, “I’M / H.O. SWINFORD’S DOG / WHOSE DOG / ARE YOU?”

Dog collar, 1920s or 1930s, American, leather, 4 inches diameter x
1 3/4 inches wide

The image below shows an Italian collar from the 1940s with distinctly Roman motifs. One crest has an image of Romulus, the founder of Rome, and his twin brother, Remus. The other crest shows the she-wolf that nursed the twins after they were abandoned. Incredibly appropriate motifs to adorn such an object!

Dog collar, 1940s, Italian, leather,
5 1/2 inches diameter x 1 3/4 inches wide

Stay tuned as we continue to learn about these everyday, yet fascinating, objects. We’ll be posting more teasers in preparation for the forthcoming 2022 exhibition.

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org