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John Wootton1683-1764
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John Wootton1683-1764

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A lady’s bay hunter held by a liveried groom in a classical landscape, with a hound and a peacock looking on.

 

Oil painting on canvas 40 x 50 inches, and contained in its fine original carved and gilded frame.

 

Provenance: By descent in the Boyd-Rochfort family of Middleton Park, County Westmeath, Ireland until 1975; purchased by Ackermann, by whom sold to the late Paul Mellon KBE; acquired from the latter by the last owner, a British private collector.

 

This most elegant of equestrian portraits has traditionally been entitled “The Duchess of Beaufort’s Hunter”, but modern scholarship suggests that this is likely to be incorrect. Certainly, the Duke of Beaufort was one of Wootton’s most distinguished and loyal patrons (witness the great collection of his work at Badminton), but here the groom is wearing a different livery from Beaufort Green.

Given the provenance of the painting, which hails from the Rochfort collection in Ireland, it is much more likely that this is a portrait of a horse belonging to his friend George Rochfort, 1st Earl of Belvidere (1708-1774), who spent much of his life in London. Mrs Delany says of him “…..he is very well bred and very well in his person and his manner; his wife is presently locked up in one of his houses in Ireland, and they say he is so miserable to love her even now; she is extremely handsome and has many personal accomplishments. A fairer person lost not heaven”. Rochfort was part of the lively social grouping at court from which Wootton drew most of his clientele, and was well acquainted with the Beaufort family through their shared interest in horse-racing.

John Wootton is without peer as the most accomplished and successful British equestrian painter of the first half of the `18th century, and who has left us a rich heritage of equestrian portraiture and sporting painting. Working for the most exalted clients at court, he was a keen follower of hounds and an habitué of Turf. The present painting shows the artist at his most elegant: the painting may be dated to circa 1735, when he was also working for the Marquis of Bath (Longleat); Earl Spencer (Althorp)
and many other grand sportsmen.







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