Benjamin Marshall

Emilius

?1824

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1010 x 1264 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Paul Mellon through the British Sporting Art Trust 1979
Reference
T02364

Display caption

This portrait of a victorious racehorse, shown beside the Newmarket course, is typical of the numerous scenes of the Turf that were Marshall's main output. Emilius, a bay colt foaled in 1820, had a short but successful racing career, winning the Derby in 1823.
Like many sporting artists, Marshall was himself an enthusiastic sportsman and was also a racing correspondent for the 'Sporting Magazine'. He was born in Leicestershire but from 1812-1825 he lived and worked near Newmarket, where, he claimed, 'I discover many a man who will pay me fifty guineas for painting his horse, who thinks ten giuneas too much for painting his wife'.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

T02364 EMILIUS ?1824

Inscribed ‘B. Marshall pin...’ inside upturned top hat bottom left and ‘Emilius’ bottom right
Oil on canvas, 39 3/4 × 49 3/4 (101 × 126.5)
Presented by Mr Paul Mellon KBE through the British Sporting Art Trust 1979
Prov: Painted for Thomas Thornhill, Riddlesworth Hall, Norfolk; by descent to Sir Anthony Thornhill; Major Dermot McCalmont, Cheveley Park, Newmarket; Marshall Field, New York; Thos. Agnew & Sons, from whom purchased by Paul Mellon 1960.
Exh: Painting in England 1700–1850: Collection of Mr & Mrs Paul Mellon, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia 1963 (346, repr. pl.126); Painting in England 1700–1850 from the Collection of Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon, Royal Academy, 1964–5 (288), and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, 1965 (127); Derby Day 200, Royal Academy, 1979 (7.3, repr.p.68); British Sporting Paintings, Fermoy Art Gallery, Kings Lynn 1979 (17).
Lit: Egerton, 1978, p.203, no.216.

Emilius was a bay colt by Orville out of Emily, foaled in 1820, bred by John Udney of Aberdeen. ‘The Druid’ describes Emilius as ‘Orville's best son ... a muscular, compact horse, with great chest and arms, short legs and peculiarly straight hind ones. Add to this a great middle piece and good back ribs, with a muscular neck not too long and rather inclined to arch. He looked, in fact, quite as much a hunter as a blood horse’ (quoted in Roger Mortimer, The History of the Derby Stakes, 1961, ed. 1973, p.80). Emilius's racing career was short but successful. He did not run as a two-year-old, but as a three-year-old he was undefeated. His greatest success was winning the Derby of 1823, with Frank Buckle up.

In 1824 John Udney sold Emilius for 1,800 guineas to a fellow-member of the Jockey Club, Thomas Thornhill, squire of Riddlesworth, Norfolk. Emilius won only one match for his new owner, and after several defeats was retired to stud at Riddlesworth. His most famous progeny were Priam and Plenipotentiary, winners of the Derby in (respectively) 1830 and 1834, and the filly Crucifix, winner of the Two Thousand Guineas, the One Thousand Guineas and The Oaks in 1840. Emilius died in 1847.

The setting in T02364 is evidently Newmarket, with one if its distinctive rubbing-down houses in the background; the picture, presumably painted soon after Thornhill's purchase of the horse in 1824, was Marshall's third major commission from Thornhill, for whom he had already painted portraits of Thornhill's two Derby winners Sam (1820) and Sailor (1823). In T02364 Marshall employs one of his favourite motifs, a quietly jubilant stable-lad who waits at the side with checked rug and sweat-cover held out for the victorious racehorse, his hat upturned on the ground until he has completed this little ceremonial (also used, for instance, in his portraits of Marmeduke, Antegallican and Emilius's son Priam). Another portrait by Marshall of Emilius with a groom was engraved by J. Webb and published in the Sporting Magazine, July 1824.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1978-80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981