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Important Sporting Art from the Thomas Mellon Evans
3 December 1998
New York, Park Avenue
Ben Marshall* (British, 1767-1835)
Mr. Thornhill's Sailor being Rubbed Down at Epsom
signed and dated 'B. Marshall f./1820' (lower left)
oil on canvas
39 x 49 in. (101 x 126.4 cm.)
Commissioned by Thomas Thornhill, Riddlesworth Hall, Newmarket, by descent to
Sir Anthony Thornhill
Major Dermot McCalmont, Cheveley Park, Newmarket; sale, Christie's London, 26 November 1920, lot 95 (367 to Sabin)
with Frank T. Sabin, London
probably, Marshall Field, New York
with Thomas Agnew, London
Anon.; sale, Sotheby's London, 19 June 1969, lot 133 (acquired by Barton for Mr. Evans)
T. H. Taunton, Portratis of Celebrated Racehorses, London, 1888, vol. III, frontispiece on Ben Marshall
W. S. Sparrow, British Sporting Artists, London, 1922, p. 173, no. 6 (as Euclid)
W. S. Sparrow, George Stubbs and Ben Marshall, London, 1929, illustrated opp. p. 52 (as an unnamed chestnut horse)
A. Noakes, Ben Marshall, Leigh-on-Sea, 1978, p. 47, no. 153 (as Euclid)
Sotheby's, Art at Auction 1968-1969, New York, 1969, p. 160 and p. 166, illustrated (as Euclid)
Bred and owned by Thomas Thornhill, Sailor (a full brother to Shoveller, the 1819 Oaks winner) by Scud out of Gooseander won a Sweepstakes at Newmarket over the Abingdon Mile before winning the 1820 Derby at Epsom on May 18 (probably the only Derby winner to have won the race on his birthday). The Duke of Grafton's Pindarrie was the pre-race favorite, however, heavy winds and rain made the going deep and Sailor won by two lengths ridden by Sam Chifney, Jr. and trained by William Chifney with Mr. Udney's Abjer second and Lord Cavendish's Tiger third. A few months later the undefeated Sailor died while being exercised depriving the turf of a good runner and promising sire.
Thomas Thornhill was an important patron of the turf. He also owned the 1818 Derby winner Sam and Emilius who sired the 1830 Derby winner Priam (see lot 27) and the 1834 Derby winner Plenipotentiary. Our painting is one of four Thornhill commissions from Ben Marshall which the great collector Sir Walter Gilbey tried to purchase for 1,000 in the late 19th Century (ibid., p. 173). The other three being Sam with Sam Chifney, Jr. Up and Shoveller held by Thomas Thornhill (formerly identified as Sailor) both at the Huntington Art Gallery, San Marino as well as Emilius at the Tate Gallery, London, bequeathed by Paul Mellon (J. Egerton, British Sporting and Animal Paintings: The Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven, 1978, p. 203, no. 216).
The horse in this painting has previously been identified as the famous chestnut Euclid, who was bred by Thornhill in 1836, a year after the artist's death. This misidentification probably began in 1920 when this painting was first identified as Euclid in the McCalmont sale and Shoveller was misidentified as Sailor. In addition to the Taunton reference to Marshall's paintings of Sam, Shoveller, and Sailor, the dates on these pictures of 1818, 1819, and 1820 are also consistent with the horses' race records. A close examination of Shoveller (previously Sailor) confirms that she is indeed a bay filly although quite chestnut in color. Interestingly, Sparrow must also have realized this error as he first refers to the horse as Euclid in 1922, but by 1929, he had changed the description to A Chestnut Racehorse.
Christie's is grateful to Robin Asleson for her assistance with this catalgoue entry.
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