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Cecil Charles Windsor Aldin, R.B.A. (1870-1935)
Derby Day
signed 'Cecil Aldin' (lower left)
pencil, coloured chalks and watercolour
17¾ x 24 in. (45 x 61.5 cm.)
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 28 July 1998, lot 100.

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Lot Essay

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The famous Derby festival takes place over two days at Epsom Racecourse in Surrey every summer. Founded by Edward Smith Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby in 1780, the first race was created for Derby and his friends to compete against each other on their three year old fillies. However, it was not until the following year that the title 'Derby' was coined for the event, which had been extended to include colts alongside the fillies. The story goes that the Earl and his friend Sir Charles Bunbury, a leading race figure of the day, tossed a coin in order to decide race's name. Despite losing out to Derby over the title, Bunbury had the last laugh on the day as he sped home for a win on his horse, Diomed.

Derby Day has remained an important fixture in the racing and social calendar ever since, and in 1784 the distance was extended to its current length of a mile-and-a-half. Perhaps the most infamous race of all was that of 1913 when the suffragette Emily Davison threw herself under the feet of King George V's horse, Anmer. Davison died of her injuries four days later.

Aldin's picture, however, presents a less sombre race day. Instead he manages to capture the excitement of the finish, sketching in the hoards of spectators which, when combined with the slightly blurred outline of the horses, create a sense of the speed of the animals as they pull down the final straight. By including a close-up of the five spectators in the foreground, Aldin adds to the immediacy of the picture and to the glamour of the event through the details of their clothing.

This picture is an alternative version of the finish that was eventually produced for Aldin's pair of prints of Derby Day (see lot 23).

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