The Duke of Kingston’s liver chestnut racehorse 'Jolly Roger' led by a groom
signed lower right: J:S / 1750.
oil on canvas
77.5 x 123.8 cm.; 30½ x 48¾ in.
The canvas is lined, the paint surface is relatively clean and the varnish is clear and even. The painting presents well and is ready to hang in its current state. There is a slight degree of wear faintly visible in some of the darker pigments, and small retouchings are just visible sparsely scattered in the sky and foreground. Inspection under ultraviolet light confirms these, and reveals more notable retouchings in the sky, notably along the right-hand side of the upper margin, to a V-shaped repaired tear, upper right, approx. 12 x 10 cm., and some small concentrated areas along the right-hand margin. There are also more concentrated retouchings scattered along all four margins and an area of retouching consisting of small, fine lines in the foreground, lower left. Retouchings in the horses comprise scattered fine lines, with slightly more notable areas between the bay horse's back legs, in its back left leg, just above the white sock, and a spot in that sock, and at the top of the grey horse's front left leg, approx. 1 cm. long. The figure is largely untouched, save for some fine lines in his face, notably in his eye.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
Mr and Mrs Jack R. Dick;
Their sale, London, Sotheby's, 23 April 1975, lot 136, for £23,000;
Simon Sainsbury (1930–2006);
His sale, London, Christie's, 18 June 2008, lot 105, for £241,250.
The identification of the racehorse in this picture is suggested by the colours worn by the groom, which is the crimson livery of Evelyn Pierrepont, 2nd Duke of Kingston (1711–73). Jolly Roger by Stamford's Mogul, a son of the Godolphin Arabian, out of a Partner mare, was foaled in 1743. During the period running up to 1750, the date of this painting, the duke’s only runner was Jolly Roger. The horse ran in five races between 1748 and 1751, winning three of these – Peterborough in 1749 where he won £50 beating three others in only two heats, Lincoln in the same year where he won £80 beating his only rival in two heats, and Grantham in 1751 where he won £50 beating four others. His career at Newmarket was less successful, coming third to Lord Portmore’s Skim. His final victory was in a race which carried a proviso that the other owners could buy the winner for £300. Presumably this happened, and in 1751 the horse was sent over to America by John Spotswood, a landowner from Spotsylvania County, Virginia. He became a distinguished sire in the years up to his death in 1769.
The Duke of Kingston led a colourful life dominated by his love of women and gambling. He was an early member of the Jockey Club and owned horses on quite a large scale. It seems that he acquired his taste for racing from his ownership of Jolly Roger, as his entry into that world only really took off four or five years after the sale of that horse. He owned substantial property in the north of England but his main residences were Thoresby Park and Holme Pierrepont Hall. The landscape in this picture suggests Thoresby Park by the lake. The house built at Thoresby by the 2nd Earl of Kingston in around 1670 had been destroyed by fire in April 1745 and a new house by Carr of York was completed twenty years after this picture was painted.
We are grateful to both David Oldrey and Richard Wills for their help in cataloguing this picture. It will be included in Wills' forthcoming catalogue raisonné on James Seymour.