Lot 9
  • 9

John Frederick Herring Snr.

600,000 - 800,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • John Frederick Herring Snr.
  • The Oaks 1845 – A False Start
  • signed J.F. Herring Senr. (lower right) inscribed Oaks and dated 1845 (lower center)
  • oil on canvas
  • 28 1/2 by 48 in.
  • 72.4 by 121.9 cm


Arthur Ackermann & Son, London
Captain C.G. Reid-Walker T.D., J.P., Ruckley Grange, England
Sale: Christie's, London, May 1, 1959
Leggatt Brothers, London
Private Collection, USA
The Sporting Gallery, Inc., Middleburg, Virginia


London, Society of British Artists, Suffolk Street 1846, No. 334


Sally Mitchell, The Dictionary of British Equestrian Artists, Suffolk, Antique collectors'club, 1985 p. 264, illustrated


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This painting has been recently restored and should be hung in its current condition. The canvas has an older glue lining which is adequately supporting the paint layer. Under UV, very little restoration is clearly visible. There are several isolated spots of retouch in the sky and perhaps slight highlighting in the tops of the clouds. In the foreground and figure groups, as far as we can see, a few spots of retouch have been added, noticeably to the brown horses in the middle of the painting. These seem to be a bit abraded but overall, the fancy details throughout the foreground are well preserved. The restoration that has been done is reasonable. A more focused effort will sharpen the details if required.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

John Frederick Herring Snr.'s The Oaks 1845 – A False Start is a remarkable account of the palpable excitement preceding the running of the Oaks at Epsom on Friday, May 30, 1845. The ambitious scale and scope of the painting distinguishes it within the artist's oeuvre and underscores Herring Snr.'s reputation as one of the most popular sporting painters of his time. It is interesting to note that on the day before the race Herring Snr. was appointed animal painter to H.R.H. the Duchess of Kent – mother of Queen Victoria. This was soon followed by a commission from Queen Victoria herself, who became a patron of the artist's work until his death in 1865.  No doubt the year 1845 marks a high point in Herring's career as well as his artistic output.

The Oaks 1845 – A False Start is a panoramic depiction of the throngs of onlookers gathered in anticipation as the high-strung three-year-old fillies lunge and chomp at their bits, unintentionally jumping the gun as the title suggests. The bustle and commotion of the scene is carefully organized by Herring's skilful approach to composition. The uninterrupted horizon line, wide expanse of blue sky, and stretch of verdant green turf, offset the central action and focus the viewer on the densely assembled crowds. The eventual winner, Refraction, can be seen prominently in the center of the picture with her jockey, H. Bell, in the yellow jacket and red cap. Bell takes a strong hold of the soon-to-be victor as she lunges forward. The runner-up Hope (white jacket, blue cap) has been painted in the far-left foreground while Miss Sarah (blue jacket, red cap) is seen just beyond Hope. Lady Wildair (red jacket, blue sleeves) can be seen to the right of Refraction.

Refraction by Glaseus out of Prism, was owned by Charles Gordon-Lennox, 5th Duke of Richmond. Second place went to Mr. Bennett's chestnut filly Hope by Gladiator, Marlow up. Third went to Major Yarburgh's bay filly Miss Sarah by Gladiator and fourth was Lord Chesterfield's Lady Wildair by Hornsea, Whitehouse up. Refraction's other notable victory came at the Duke of Richmond's family-owned course at Goodwood in the Nassau Stakes. As a broodmare she became the dam of the filly La Maladetta who in 1858 won the Grosser Preis von Baden, Germany's most prestigious thoroughbred horserace which still exists today.

It is possible that the present work was painted as a part of a pair, the other being The Start of the 1844 Derby. Both paintings were owned by Captain Reid-Walker and sold at Christie's in 1959.  The Start of the 1844 Derby was engraved and could have been commissioned by the publisher. It is possible that The Oaks 1845 – A False Start may also have been a specific commission, but never engraved.

The betting for the 1845 Oaks was as follows:


            7 to 2 against                Lancashire Witch – finished seventh

            11 to 2 against Lady Wildair

            7 to 1 against                Glee

            8 to 1 against                Miss Elis – finished thirteenth

            12 to 1 against Hope

            15 to 1 against Maid of Orleans – finished ninth

            20 to 1 against Plaudit – finished twelfth


            25 to 1 against Refraction

            30 to 1 against              Event – finished seventeenth

                                                Miss Sarah


We would like to thank David Fuller and Graham Budd for their help in cataloguing this work.