Lot 59
  • 59

Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S.

250,000 - 350,000 USD
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  • The Falcon Inn, Costessey
  • signed A.J. Munnings and dated 1910 (upper left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 14 1/4 by 18 3/8 in.
  • 36.2 by 46.7 cm.


Charles A. Bunting, Norwich and London
Dr. Charles F. Bunting (by descent from the above and sold, Christie's, London, June 12, 2002, lot 7, illustrated)
Richard Green, London
Acquired from the above


Possibly, Bury St. Edmunds, Art Gallery, Loan Collection of Pictures by A.J. Munnings, R.A., August-September 1939, no. 27 (as Boy on Horse)


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This work is unlined and well stretched. The paint layer is cleaned and varnished. There is a restored loss in the hind leg of the brown horse being ridden, a few tiny dots of retouching in the white wall behind the child, and also a few small spots in the child's cheek. The restoration in the hind leg of the horse seems to addresses a small break in the canvas and shows a very small repair on the reverse.
"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

Though he was small in stature, Fountain George Page, a gypsy horse handler working in Norwich in the early 1900s, was one of Sir Alfred Munnings’ most famous models — the aptly nicknamed “Shrimp.”  The artist was first introduced to Shrimp by his employer, the horse dealer James Drake, and upon their meeting Munnings found him an “undersized, tough, artful young brigand” (Sir Alfred Munnings, An Artist’s Life, London, 1950, p. 207).  Though the two had an often-combative relationship, Shrimp, who “slept under the caravan with the dogs, and had no home of his own, no family ties, no parents that he knew” would become “an indispensable model, an inspiring rogue, an annoying villain” for the artist (Munnings, p. 207).  Shrimp prominently appeared in a number of Munnings’ compositions beginning in 1908, and is seen in the present work with his characteristic yellow handkerchief tied around his neck, confidentially riding as he leads ponies with a long, rough rope.  As Munnings explained, meeting Shrimp was a “lucky start” to this phase of his career “making pictures out-of-doors, in the right environment, with the models I needed” (Munnings, p. 211).

Dated 1910, the present work is presumably set just outside The Falcon Inn, located near the Bush Inn, Costessey where Shrimp and Munnings first met, and which became their nightly resting place during excursions through the Ringland Hills that summer. The artist’s early jaunts would expand to longer travels through the English countryside as a vagabond, in a romanticized imitation of the gypsies who fascinated him and inspired many of his most celebrated works. Given the assortment of horses purchased just before and brought along the excursion, it is difficult to say which Munnings portrays in the present work.  Throughout his compositions, Munnings would alter the number of horses and ponies, change the groupings, viewpoints and locations, which enabled him to explore numerous artistic possibilities.  As he explained, "the mere sight of these ponies, coming or going gave me fresh pictures. Like a game of chess, there was no end to it" (Munnings, p. 238).  In the present work, Munning’s naturalistic technique, coupled with impressionistic vigor, infuse the composition with a sense of movement — the loose brushwork and compositional cropping of the horses suggest their swift movement as they move out for the next painting excursion — filling the picture space as they traverse it for the artist’s and the viewer’s view.