Thomas Spencer (1700-1763)
Flying Childers
signed, inscribed and dated 'Childers Belonging to his Grace/the Duke of Devonshire,/1725/Thos.Spencer pinxt/1725' (lower right) and further inscribed and dated 'Childers Belonging to his Grace/The Duke of Devonshire 1724' (lower left)
oil on canvas
40 x 49 ¾ in. (101.6 x 126.4 cm.)
Probably commissioned by Sir Edward O'Brien, 2nd Bt., M.P. for Co. Clare, d. 1765, and by descent to his son,
Sir Lucius O'Brien, 3rd Bt., M.P., d. 1795, and by descent to his son
Sir Edward O'Brien, 4th Bt., M.P., d. 1837, and by descent to his son
Sir Lucius O'Brien, 5th Bt. who succeeded as 13th Baron Inchiquin, M.P., d. 1872, and by descent to his son
Edward Donough O'Brien, 14th Baron, K.P., d. 1900, and by descent to his son
Lucius William O'Brien, 15th Baron, d. 1929, and by descent to his son
Donough Edward Foster O'Brien, 16th Baron, Dromoland Castle; James Adam & Sons, Dublin, 4 December 1962, lot 450 (£850 to Mrs. Braga, whose grandfather was the 14th Baron Inchiquin).
Anonymous sale; Christie's, New York, 6 December 1996, lot 5, where acquired by the present owner.

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Brandon Lindberg
Brandon Lindberg

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Lot Essay

Flying Childers was bred by Colonel Leonard Childers of Cantley Hall, Doncaster, foaled in 1715 by the Darley Arabian (imported from Aleppo, circa 1704) out of Betty Leedes. He was sold as a yearling to William, 2nd Duke of Devonshire, in whose livery three of the figures in the present picture are shown. In the two seasons 1737 and 1738 he was a top-class performer for the Duke, winning several races at Newmarket. After an exceptional racing career, he retired to stud at Chatsworth. The prefix 'Flying' was a soubriquet added later as his racing performances grew into legend that was unchallenged prior to the appearance of Eclipse, some forty years later.
As such a celebrated champion, Flying Childers was painted by several early 18th century British Sporting artists including John Wootton, James Seymour and Thomas Stringer, and his portrait adorns the walls of several major collections of Sporting Art, such as The Paul Mellon Collection. The present lot was painted more contemporaneously than most, just three years after Flying Childers stopped racing in 1722. The popularity of these paintings led to a variety of contemporary engravings, including Houston's 1755 engraving of Seymour's portrait under which the caption ran: Childers, the Fleetest Horse that ever ran at Newmarket.

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