The present portrait of three generations of the wealthy Sorby family of Sheffield was commissioned by John Sorby in 1828. The family owned vast tracts of land in the Attercliffe area of Sheffield and were cutlers who had made their fortune in the edge-tool manufacturing business. In commissioning a grand portrait of himself and his heirs depicted out in the field enjoying countryside pursuits, John Sorby was demonstrating the family's distance from their manufacturing origins and establishing their name as one of the leading families of Yorkshire.
A fine example of Herring’s early Yorkshire portraits, before he turned his focus increasingly on racehorses and animals, the Sorby family portrait depicts the patriarch John, aged 73, in the centre in a dark coat, buff breeches and gaiters and a top hat, on his dark bay hunter, Patrick. His son, Edwin, aged 36, stands to the right, in a fashionable brown velvet coat, buff breeches and waistcoat, with a black cap, holding a gun, whilst his young son Horatio, aged 9, in a dark blue coat, grey breeches, white waistcoat and red cravat with a brown velvet cap, is mounted on a dappled grey pony. The scene is completed by the pair of setters, Boneo and Smack.
The painting remained in the Sorby family collection until 1964 when it was sold in these rooms by a descendant, J.B. Waterhouse for 4,500 guineas. It then passed into the celebrated Sporting Art collection of Mr and Mrs Jack R. Dick in Connecticut, before being sold in the two day sale of their property in 1973.