Audio: Jacques-Laurent Agasse, Head of a bay horse
Jacques-Laurent Agasse (Geneva 1767-1849 London)
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Jacques-Laurent Agasse (Geneva 1767-1849 London)

Head of a bay horse

Jacques-Laurent Agasse (Geneva 1767-1849 London)
Head of a bay horse
oil on canvas
21 x 15 in. (54 x 38.2 cm.)
Anonymous sale; Christie's, Geneva, 24 April 1970, lot 20 (sold SFR 5,000).
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 24 November 1998, lot 94 (£309,500).
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 27 November 2002, lot 25, where acquired by the present owner.

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Lot Essay

This exceptionally beautiful study, which dates to circa 1796-1798, is arguably one of the most original and arresting images in equestrian painting.

Agasse was born in Switzerland to a wealthy Huguenot family. After attending the Ecole du Colibri in Geneva, he moved to Paris where he trained under Jacques-Louis David and, in the tradition of Stubbs, studied anatomy. At the invitation of the Hon. George Pitt (who succeeded as 2nd Baron Rivers in 1803), he visited England circa 1790, but returned to Switzerland before finally settling in England for good in 1800.

Lord Rivers commissioned several key works from the artist including hunting and coursing scenes, depictions of his celebrated stud farm at Stratfield Saye, and exotic beasts in the London menageries (eg. Two Leopards playing in the Exeter 'Change Menagerie of 1808, sold in these Rooms, 15 July 1988, lot 35, £3,850,000). Agasse was not, however, limited to depictions of animals; he was an accomplished portraitist and other subjects included a stunning series of views on the River Thames.

One of Agasse's close friends in London was the painter, caricaturist and engraver, Adam Wolfgang Topffer (1766-1847), whose granddaughter Adele is the authoress of the inscription on an old label attached to the reverse of the present work, which reads 'Je soussignée déclare que cette tête de cheval est une etude de peintre Agasse. Adele Topffer'.

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