T02373 A Bay Hunter Held by a Groom, with a Stag-hunt in the Background c.1750
Oil on canvas 1150×1355 (45 1/4×53 3/8)
Presented by Mr Paul Mellon KBE through the British Sporting Art Trust 1979
PROVENANCE ...: anon. sale, Christie's 16 June 1961 (8 as ‘A Chestnut Hunter’ by John Wootton, repr.) bt Ackermann, from whom bt by Paul Mellon 1961
EXHIBITED Painting in England 1700–1850: Collection of Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia 1963 (309)
LITERATURE Egerton 1978, p.55, no.57
The bay hunter, with its distinctive markings (white star, and three white socks) is portrayed in profile facing left, bridled but unsaddled; a blue-coated groom holds its reins, as if waiting for his master. In the middle distance a stag-hunt is in progress, and here the hunter is again depicted, now ridden by his master (in a red coat), galloping to the right in a group of riders to hounds in full cry after a stag. Spencer uses a similar device of combining a foreground portrait of a hunter with a background scene showing the horse in action in ‘Scipio’, which remains in the Mellon Collection (Egerton 1978, p.54, no.56, col. pl.9).
The style is evidently closely modelled on Seymour's though the handling is more naive and the colouring considerably more garish than Seymour's.
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 1988