T03439 MAJOR HEALEY, WEARING RABY HUNT UNIFORM, RIDING WITH THE SEDGEFIELD HUNT c.1833
Oil on canvas 30 1/8 × 38 3/16 (764 × 970)
Inscribed ‘John Ferneley | Melton Mowbray’ bottom centre and ‘To Major Healey | with M' Ferneley | of Melton Mowbrays | Compliments’ on stretcher
Presented by Violet N. Cross through the British Sporting Art Trust 1982
Prov: Presented by the artist to the sitter; his widow, Anna Mildred Healey, by whom given or bequeathed to her great-niece Isabel Wintour, by whom offered at Sotheby's 25 April 1934 (136), bt in and later bequeathed to her niece Violet N. Cross
Lit: Guy Paget, The Melton Mowbray of John Ferneley, Leicester 1931, pp.31–3
The portrait of Major Healey on a chestnut hunter is taken from Ferneley's large painting ‘Portraits of the Gentlemen of the Sedgefield Hunt’ (repr. Paget, facing p.32), in which Major Healey appears in the foreground on the left, riding after a fox well ahead of the field (including the hounds: see below). That picture, painted for J. Bell of Thirsk Hall, Yorkshire (? and still in his descendants' collection), is recorded in Ferneley's Account Books (Paget, p.141, no.362): ‘Jan. 1833. J. Bell Esq. A large Scurry, with Portraits of Gentlemen and Horses. £115.10.0’. When it was exhibited at the Society of British Artists in 1833 (469), the New Sporting Magazine's reviewer (quoted by Paget, pp.31–3) stressed the fact that ‘this picture was designed more with a view of obtaining portraits of certain gentlemen and horses’ rather than as a realistic reflection of the ‘confusion’ of a hunt scurry: this, he suggested, accounted for ‘one or two points which the hypercritical connoisseur might cavil at - such as one gentleman riding after the fox before the body of the hounds are out of cover’.
Major Healey is portrayed both in the big ‘Sedgefield Hunt’ picture and in T03439 wearing the Raby Hunt uniform: scarlet coat and black collar embroidered in gold with a fox. Sotheby's sale catalogue of 1934 described Major Healey as ‘of Morris Grange, Richmond, Yorkshire, a hard rider who hunted with the Zetland, Raby, Bedale, Hurworth and Sedgefield packs and who was a well-known figure in the hunting-field’. Presumably he was a friend of Ferneley. Preserved with the picture are an old photograph (? c.1870) inscribed ‘Colonel Healey in old age’, recognizably the same individual as Ferneley's sitter, a photograph of his wife and two photographs of Morris Grange, Yorkshire.
Major Healey has not been further identified. He may be the John Healey who appears in Army Lists from at least 1815 to 1868–9, attaining the rank of Lieutenant in the 7th Regiment of Foot on 8 September 1815, promoted Captain in the same regiment on 26 June 1823, transferring the next year to the 39th Regiment of Foot and continuing to be listed there on half pay from 15 January 1824. His styling as ‘Major’ is presumably an honorary rank after his retirement from active service.
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986