Old Masters Evening Auction

Old Masters Evening Auction

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 21. Polyanthus, a favourite bay hunter, in a landscape.

Property from a Hampshire Private Collection

George Stubbs, A.R.A.

Polyanthus, a favourite bay hunter, in a landscape

Auction Closed

July 6, 06:35 PM GMT


400,000 - 600,000 GBP

Lot Details


Property from a Hampshire Private Collection

George Stubbs, A.R.A.

Liverpool 1724 - 1806 London

Polyanthus, a favourite bay hunter, in a landscape

oil on canvas

101.6 x 127 cm.; 40 x 50 in. 







101.6 x 127 公分;40 x 50 英寸

Anonymous sale, London, Bonhams, 6 May 1965, lot 165 (as John Ferneley Snr) to Leggatt Brothers;

With Leggatt Brothers, London (as Stubbs);

From whom acquired by Jack Dick (1927–1974), Dunnellen Hall, Connecticut;

His sale (‘The Mr and Mrs Jack R. Dick Collection of English Sporting and Conversation Paintings’, Part 3), London, Sotheby’s, 23 April 1975, lot 138;

On the art market, London.

J. Egerton, George Stubbs, Painter, New Haven and London 2007, p. 490, no. 263, reproduced in colour p. 491.

This imposing portrait of a favourite bay hunter is set by Stubbs in a beautiful, peaceful spring landscape. The evening light gives a warm glow to the trees which line the winding river. The identity of the owner of the horse is not recorded, but the artist has painted a colourful clump of polyanthus central to the figure of the animal and this almost certainly gives a clue as to its name.

In her catalogue raisonné Judy Egerton dated the picture to circa 1786. It was during the 1770s and 1780s that Stubbs painted a number of portraits of favourite horses and dogs, and he seemed to relish the chance to paint quiet, gentle animals away from the pressures of the racecourse or the studbox and to set them in natural, freshly-painted landscapes. Many of Stubbs' patrons during this period were no longer the leading members of the aristocracy upon whom he had relied in the 1760s, and his portraits of horses no longer have to be in the grand setting of a major estate. Egerton quotes François de la Rochefoucauld commenting on the ‘extraordinary affection for the horse’ that he found when touring England in 1784, which he called ‘a passion which is common to the whole country’. It was this love of horses which produced much of Stubbs’ patronage during this period.

Stubbs sometimes introduced flowers to indicate the name of the horse depicted. Two examples of this were the stallions Sweetwilliam and Sweetbriar, both owned by Lord Grosvenor, and both painted by Stubbs for the owner in 1779.1 In both pictures the appropriate flower appears prominently below the figure of the horse. Lord Grosvenor also owned a racehorse called Polyanthus, foaled in 1782, and Egerton suggested at one stage that the present picture could depict that horse. However, David Oldrey has pointed out that Lord Grosvenor’s horse was a filly which rules out that possibility, and also the sturdy build of this horse seems to confirm that it is a hunter.

Note on Provenance

This painting formed part of a remarkable collection of British sporting paintings put together in the 1960s by Jack Dick, who was an entrepreneur and cattle breeder. He became a specialist in breeding Aberdeen Angus cattle in his Black Watch Farms in Wappingers Falls, New York State. He moved to Dunnellen Hall in Connecticut, which he filled with his substantial picture collection, including a comprehensive group of works by Marshall, Herring and Ferneley, as well as several paintings by Stubbs. Dick had a particular affection for Stubbs’ work and is quoted as saying: ‘There is one thing that always comes through with Stubbs. You can see that he loved those horses.’ His collection was offered for sale at Sotheby’s in four parts between 1973 and 1976, and totalled over 200 paintings.

1 Egerton 2007, nos 216 and 217, both reproduced on p. 425.