Adrian Jones displayed an early talent for drawing whilst still at school but was discouraged by his father from entering into an artistic career. Instead he began studies at the Royal Veterinary College, qualifying in 1866. He later entered the army as a Veterinary Officer. When sent to India he seems to have spent more time training horses than on his military duties. He later recalled being praised by the Aga Khan after winning a horse race in Poona (modern day Pune). Jones also began painting whilst in the army, creating military scenes and portraits of horses. At the close of the Boer War he returned to London and took up sculpture with the encouragement of the sculptor Charles Bell Birch. Without formal training, Jones achieved the incredible success of his first effort, a portrait of his favourite hunter, being accepted for the 1884 Royal Academy Exhibition.
The present rare bronze group comes from undoubtedly the most interesting moment in Jones' career, namely his transition from society animalier sculptor par excellence to a creator of major monumental works. The veterinary officer turned professional portraitist of racehorses, hunters and foxhounds had just created Duncan's Horses. Inspired by lines from Macbeth, it was a wild group of rearing, biting and plunging horses, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1892 to the surprise of fellow Academicians who had previously criticised him for his lack of work on a monumental scale. This fervently romantic over-life-sized group was his response, hailed by the press as 'the finest thing in the Central Hall of the Royal Academy'. Unfortunately Jones' success had created ill feeling, and a scandal ensued as he was accused of using ‘ghost’ sculptors to create the work while taking all the credit. Jones denied the accusation, successfully clearing his name and the model of Maternal Carewas exhibited at life-size the following year as further proof of his sculptural proficiency on a monumental scale.
The Standard’s review of this model wrote in glowing terms: ‘In this particular class of animal life Adrian Jones stands alone. For nearly twenty years in a cavalry regiment he has had undoubted opportunities for studying every movement of a horse.’ The critic recommended that it be purchased by the nation. Instead, it went to Mr Washington Singer for his garden at Borman Court near Salisbury, in a slightly modified form. The original composition had a wild barking dog running alongside the horses, which has also been omitted from the present model.
The life-size bronze group was sold by Sotheby's London on 4th November 1988, lot 42. The present bronze is a rare reduction of the large-scale model and has been passed down through the family of the sculptor.
A. Jones, Memoires of a Soldier Artist, London, 1933, pp. 5, 72-73, 96, 97; J. A. Cunningham, Adrian Jones, his life and work, cat. Sladmore Gallery, London, 1984; J. Blackwood, London's Immortals, London, 1989, pp.270-1