Lord Grosvenor's Arabian Stallion with a Groom
British (English) (1724–1806)
Oil on canvas
39 1/8 x 32 7/8 in. (99.3 x 83.5 cm) Framed: 44 x 37 1/2 x 2 5/8 in. (111.8 x 95.3 x 6.7 cm)
Currently On View
George Stubbs was the greatest painter of animals of his day. He was celebrated especially for his representation of horses, the forms and nature of which he captured with a remarkable understanding and sensitivity. After a start as a portrait painter, in 1754 he traveled to Rome, where his study of antiquity probably informed the classical design of many of his compositions, with their elegant curves, pleasing profiles, and allusions to relief sculpture. Upon his return from this brief sojourn, for nearly two years Stubbs single-mindedly carried out equine dissections and made anatomical studies at an isolated Lincolnshire farm. Unable to find a printmaker to render his subtle drawings, Stubbs etched them himself and produced a book that became a model study of animal anatomy, The Anatomy of the Horse, published in 1766. He established his artistic reputation in London during the 1760s, offering a hard-won naturalism in his animal paintings. Stubbs’s characteristically uncompromising spirit, and his quest for calibrated composition and balanced tones, are clearly evident in this portrait of Lord Grosvenor’s young Arabian stallion. He employs a low horizon, with rolling hills and soft foliage, to effectively display the warm tones of the chestnut Arabian. (An early reproductive print of the painting shows that the landscape was originally a good deal more extensive to the left; the canvas seems to have been cut down on that side in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century.) The sprightly mien of the colt, ears pricked and nostrils wide, is set in contrast with the reassuring demeanor of the groom. The artist meticulously portrays its genetic Sabino markings—the broad blaze, white stockings, and white spots on the belly and sides.
Recordings for Adults
There is some question as to the original size and format of Lord Grosvenor’s Arabian with a Groom. A 1771 engraving by Peter Mazell, Lord Grosvenor’s Arabian, shows the same scene expanded to include a landscape on the left side. When the painting was examined in light of this question, the physical evidence was inconclusive. The tacking edges had been trimmed from all four sides, so it was not possible to determine the original dimensions. Cusping in the canvas was visible in the x-radiograph on the top and bottom, but not on the left of right edges. This could suggest that the canvas has been cut on the sides, or it could be due to the structure of the canvas fabric and its response to stretching. The impression of the stretcher in the paint surface, as well as the craquelure pattern, suggests that the painting has been preserved in its present form for a long period of time. While the horizontal format of the engraving is often found in other works by Stubbs, a small contemporary painted copy by J. N. Sartorius (1759-1828), in the collection of J. R. S. Edmonds, reiterates the present composition.
Painted for Richard Grosvenor, 7th baronet, and 1st earl Grosvenor [1731-1802], Eaton Hall, Cheshire, and London; by descent to his son, Robert Grosvenor, 2nd earl Grosvenor (later 1st marquess of Westminster) [1767-1845], Eaton Hall, Cheshire, and Grosvenor House, London; (his sale, Peter Coxe, London, 2 July 1812, no. 24, sold for £37.16). Mr. James Brady, New Jersey, until c. 1970. Private collection, United States; purchased through (Leggatt Brothers, London) by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1981.