The picture shows a lofty, barn-like room, its plain walls hung with framed prints and an array of pistols, guns and spears. Six members of the Norwich-based Carrow Abbey Hunt, named on the frame, are seen in relaxed mood, gloved and booted, ready to go. They await their huntsman, James Mead, who is shown entering at the left. From left to right the members of the hunt are: Timothy Tompson, son of a brewer; Robert Harvey, manufacturer, later banker and, in 1787, Mayor of Norwich; John Morse, brewer and Mayor of Norwich in 1781 and 1803; Jeremiah Ives, Mayor in 1786 and 1801; Jeremiah Tompson; John South Morse. They hunted for deer, fox and hare around St Faith's and Spixworth to the north of Norwich and in Bixley, Arminghall, Poringland and Brooke district to the south. Reinagle's painting descended in the Morse family and was presumably commissioned by the John Morse depicted here as the central figure.
Two other versions of this picture are known to exist. A smaller one is in the Bearsted collection; the other, painted a year later in 1781, is currently in a private collection in New York. It is clearly related to this version, but set in a grander and more elegant panelled interior. Also painted for the Morse family, it has not only a similar frame identifying the sitters, but also an elaborate contemporary inscription on the back spelling out precisely how the picture was to be passed on from one member of the hunt to the next.
Philip Reinagle's long career encompassed portrait, landscape, sporting and animal painting, and it is for the latter that he is best known. As an artist, however, he is of particular interest for the fact that he was apprenticed to Allan Ramsay (1713-84) at fourteen, and remained his friend and assistant for life. Ramsay's stylishness and delicacy of touch is reflected in this work.
Stephen Deuchar, Sporting Art in Eighteenth-Century England, ?London 1988, p.91, fig.72
Andrew Moore and Charlotte Crawley, Family and Friends: A Regional Survey of British Portraiture, exhibition catalogue, Castle Museuim, Norwich 1992, pp.130-1
Diane Perkins, British Sporting Art, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery 1995, p., reproduced in colour p.
Technique and condition
The painting is in oil paint on a plain-woven, linen canvas primed with an off-white, oil-bound ground. The thin, opaque paint was applied delicately, wet-in-wet with fine brushes. Alterations in the placing and position of some the figures are now just discernible as 'pentimenti': Jeremiah Ives was originally placed nearer to the central seated figure and John South Morse was nearer to the right edge. In his present position his pose has been altered at the right arm and feet. These changes would indicate that this is the earliest of the three versions.
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