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John Frederick Herring, Sen. (Blackfriars 1795-1865 Tunbridge Wells)
John Frederick Herring, Sen. (Blackfriars 1795-1865 Tunbridge Wells)

Don John with William Scott up before the start of the 1838 St. Leger

Details
John Frederick Herring, Sen. (Blackfriars 1795-1865 Tunbridge Wells)
Don John with William Scott up before the start of the 1838 St. Leger
with strengthened (?) signature and date 'J.F. Herring. 1838' (lower right), and inscribed 'Don John' (lower centre)
oil on canvas
28 1/8 x 36 in. (71.4 x 91.5 cm.)
Provenance
Mrs C. White of Malton, Yorkshire.
Mr. Charles G. Thieriot, New York; sold Sotheby’s, London, 15 July 1959, lot 105.
Private collection, London, by 1973, and by descent to the present owner.
Literature
The Charles Thieriot Collection of Sporting Paintings, Cedar Hill, Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, 1940, no. 31.
(Possibly) O. Beckett, J.F. Herring & Sons, London, 1981, p. 108, under no. 103.
Exhibited
Baltimore Museum of Art, Hunting and Racing Exhibition, 21 April – 10 May 1939, no. 102.

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Lot Essay

Don John, a bay colt by Tramp, was foaled in 1835. He won the St. Leger in 1838 for the Earl of Chesterfield, and went on to win the Doncaster Cup the same year, defeating the famous mare, Beeswing, considered to be the best racehorse in the North. In total, Don John won seven races between 1837 and 1839. Herring painted several other versions of Don John, one of which, with William Scott up before the start of the 1838 St. Leger, was engraved by Charles Hunt and published by S. & J. Fuller. He was later a successful sire.

An important patron of the turf and legendary sportsman, the 6th Earl of Chesterfield (1805-1866) was well known for his extravagance, high-living and flamboyant lifestyle, which earned him the nickname of "The Magnificent". Herring was commissioned to paint a number of racing pictures by Lord Chesterfield, including Priam beating Lord Exeter's Augustus at Newmarket (sold Sotheby's, New York, 9 June 1989, lot 75) and Industry and Caroline Elvina (sold Christie's, London, 24 April 1987, lot 24), both of which were sold by his grandson, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, at Christie's in 1918, possibly to fund his excavations in Egypt, including the tomb of King Tutankhamun.

Herring Senior is most celebrated for his accurate depictions of the history of the turf in the first half of the 19th Century; during his career he painted twenty-one Derby winners, thirty-four of the St. Leger, and eleven winners of the Oaks. In the case of the St. Leger series the artist made pictures available extremely quickly so that prints could be published before the end of the year from 1825 onwards. Prints for the years 1815 to 1824 were all published based on earlier paintings along with the 1825 winner. After 1840 Herring ceased to be involved and others continued the series until 1845.

The jockey William Scott (1797-1848) was the younger brother of John Scott (1797-1871), who is still the most successful trainer of classic winners of all time. They were born at Chippenham, Newmarket, and their father was a former jockey and trainer, who kept an inn called The Ship at Oxford. Both John and William entered their father's stables at an early age, and at thirteen John won a £50 plate at Blandford. Although he began as a lightweight jockey, he soon gave up riding races after having to lose 2½ stone to ride in a £70 plate. In 1815, he and William moved North to the stable of James Croft at Middleham, Yorkshire, where John had charge of Filho da Puta, who won the St. Leger Stakes that year. Shortly after, the brothers were employed by Thomas Houldsworth of Rockhill in Sherwood Forest until 1823.

In 1825 the brothers went into partnership, and John bought Whitewall House, Malton, Yorkshire, whose ample training stables steadily expanded with their success. There, William had the opportunity to ride numerous good horses, and was soon known as one of the best jockeys of his day, while John was acclaimed the 'Wizard of the North', training in total forty classic winners, including sixteen winners of the St. Leger, eight Oaks and six Derbys.

In his foreword to the 1940 exhibition catalogue of Charles H. Thieriot’s collection, his cousin the art dealer Charles Henschel wrote that ‘The great racing history for which England is so justly famous lies spread before us in this group of pictures, and the portraits of celebrated horses show a knowledge of horse-flesh and an enthusiasm for the subject which make them irresistible to any horse-lover’. He went on to describe Theiriot as ‘a discriminating collector, and his taste and knowledge have combined to produce a group of pictures of the highest artistic merit, which is one of the outstanding collections of its kind in this country’. Other works from the Thieriot collection to have passed through Christie’s include John Frederick Herring, Sen., Fortitude (sold in these Rooms, 27 June 2012, lot 20).

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