The Home Team depicts a procession of elegantly dressed, joyful children pretending to be horses pulling a carriage, accompanied by a faithful family collie. Although a simple narrative, The Home Team depicts the best features of Elsley's paintings. It has a timeless atmosphere and encapsulates the joy of childhood. Referring to another work of the same year, Golden Hours, but also relevant to the present painting, a contemporary noted, 'Mr. Elsley is a master of these bright scenes of childhood. He knows all the ingredients that compose the children's paradise; a pony and a dog, a lovely garden and romping spirits untouched by any shade of care' (Bibby's Quarterly Summer 1908). Elsley's beloved only child Marjorie features twice in this painting, both as the child opening the gate and girl with the white dress and red sash who leads the procession. She appears in many of his most important paintings. Elsley's favorite dog was a collie named 'Scamp' who also is in many other of his works. The procession of children with attendant dogs and ponies (both real or imaginary) is one of Elsley's most successful compositions and he used it for some of his best-known works such as Golden Hours (Christie's, New York, 18 October 2000, lot 52, $831,000), also painted in 1903.
Terry Parker has suggested that The Home Team is an adaptation of Frederick Morgan's Sea Horses which was used as a print for Pears soap in 1894. In 1904, Elsley painted a complimentary work of the same size entitled The Happy Pair/A Royal Procession depicting children processing in a make-believe wedding with a dog-cart decorated in garlands (Parker, op. cit., illustrated p. 71).
Born in 1860, the son of a coachman, Elsley joined the South Kensington School of Art at the age of fourteen. In 1876 he became a probationer at the Royal Academy Schools, and submitted his first exhibit to the Royal Academy in 1878. By 1887, he was sharing a studio at 151 Gloucester Road, Kensington, with George Greville Manton, who later introduced Elsley to Frederick Morgan (see previous lot). Elsley was to paint the animals in Morgan's pictures in success to Allen Sealey, and following the death of Charles Burton Barber in 1894, was considered the foremost painter of animals and children in the country. In 1900, following an estrangement with Morgan who accused him of stealing ideas for pictures, Elsley started to execute works on a grander scale. He continued to exhibit at the Royal Academy until 1917.
A pottery plaque of The Home Team (minus the figure on the right) was produced by Empire Works in Stoke-on-Trent (Parker, op. cit., p. 94).