George Stubbs

Otho, with John Larkin up

1768

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1013 x 1270 mm
frame: 1207 x 1460 x 105 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Paul Mellon through the British Sporting Art Trust 1979
Reference
T02375

Summary

Otho was a bay colt foaled in 1760 by Moses out of Miss Vernon. He was bred and first owned by the Hon. Richard Vernon (1726-1800), a founder-member of the Jockey Club. Vernon bred and owned a very large number of racehorses, and made a small fortune by astute betting. Otho's racing career under Vernon during the years 1764-6 was moderately successful, and included winning a match for 300 guineas at Newmarket in October 1764 against Lord Bolingbroke's Turf, whose portrait by Stubbs of c.1765 is in the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut. Otho's loss of a match against the Marquess of Rockingham's Bay Malton in 1766 is the subject of a painting by Francis Sartorius.

Vernon's stepson John Fitzpatrick, the Earl of Upper Ossory (1745-1818) purchased Otho early in 1767, the last and most successful year in Otho's racing career. He had several victories at Newmarket that year, and this painting was presumably commissioned to celebrate these. It is not known whether John Larkin, the jockey, rode Otho on each successful occasion, as Racing Calendars of this period do not record jockeys' names. The setting for the picture is Newmarket racecourse, with one of the rubbing-down houses shown on the right (see Newmarket Heath, with a Rubbing-Down House, c.1765, Tate Gallery T02388), and a view of St Mary's Church and Newmarket town in the middle distance. Otho was subsequently retired to stud at Ampthill Park, Lord Ossory's seat in Bedfordshire. He commanded high stud fees and his progeny included Comus, Dormant, Coxcomb and Saturn.

Further reading:
Judy Egerton, British Sporting and Animal Paintings 1655-1867, London 1978, p.80, reproduced pl.30
Judy Egerton, George Stubbs 1724-1806, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1984, reprinted 1996, pp.88-9, reproduced in colour

Terry Riggs
January 1998

Display caption

Otho had proved only moderately successful on the race-track until 1767, the last year of his racing career, when he had several victories at Newmarket. This portrait with a mounted jockey, beside one of the rubbing-down houses at Newmarket, was presumably commissioned to celebrate these achievements.

Stubbs was often limited to painting standard horse portraits for proud owners. However, even in conventional subjects such as this, he raised the genre to a poetic level. His subtle atmospheric effects evoke the tension of racing, as the storm-clouds hint that the sunlight in which the horse and rider stand may be fitful.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

T02375 OTHO, WITH JOHN LARKIN UP 1768

Inscribed ‘Geo: Stubbs pinxit/1768’ bottom left and ‘Otho’ below the horse; ‘Otho’ also lettered on lintel of door
Oil on canvas, 39 7/8 × 50 (101.2 × 127)
Presented by Mr Paul Mellon KBE through the British Sporting Art Trust 1979
Prov: John Fitzpatrick, 2nd Earl of Upper Ossory (d.1818);...; probably purchased by the 6th Baron Monson (d.1862); by descent to the 11th Baron Monson, until 1964, when sold to Mallet & Son (Antiques) Ltd.; Leggatt Brothers, from whom purchased by Paul Mellon, 1965.
Exh: Somerset House Art Treasures Exhibition, Somerset House, 1979 (L.3, repr. p.15).
Lit: Egerton, 1978, p.80, no.78, repr. pl.30; Christopher Neve, ‘A Gift from a Galloping Anglophile’, in Country Life, CLXVI, 30 August 1979, p.585, repr. fig. 2; The Tate Gallery 1978–80, p.33, repr. in col.
Engr: ?by John Scott, ‘from a...painting...in the possession of...the Earl of Upper Ossory’, published in the Sporting Magazine, 9 October 1796, facing p.64; repr. T. H. Taunton, Portraits of Celebrated Racehorses..., Series I, 1887, facing p.100.

Otho, a bay colt by Moses out of Miss Vernon, foaled in 1760, was bred and first owned by Richard Vernon (1726–1800). Vernon, a founder-member of the Jockey Club, bred and owned a very large number of racehorses, and made a small fortune by astute betting. Under Vernon's ownership, Otho's racing career during the years 1764–6 was moderately successful, and included winning a match for 300 guineas at Newmarket in October 1764 against Lord Bolingbroke's Turf, whose portrait by Stubbs of c.1765 is now in the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (repr. Egerton, 1978, col.pl.12).

Early in 1767 Vernon sold Otho to his stepson, John Fitzpatrick, 2nd Earl of Upper Ossory (1745–1818), who was described by Horace Walpole as a man ‘who has all the passions of youth without its ridicules; who loves gaming without making or losing a fortune, and Newmarket without being a dupe or a sharper’ (letter of 7 October 1773, ed. W. S. Lewis and others, Horace Walpole's Correspondence with the Countess of Upper Ossory, 1, 1965, p.154). 1767 was the last but most successful year in Otho's racing career, bringing several victories at Newmarket. T02375, dated 1768, was presumably commissioned to celebrate these. John Larkin may have ridden Otho on each successful occasion, but Racing Calendars of this period do not record jockeys' names. Certainly Newmarket rececourse provides the setting for T02375, with one of the rubbing-down houses (see T02388) shown on the right, and a view of St. Mary's Church and Newmarket town in the middle distance.

Otho was subsequently retired to stud at Ampthill Park, Lord Ossory's seat in Bedfordshire. His services as a stallion were advertised in the Racing Calendar from 1773 to 1784; at the height of his renown at stud he commanded the same fees as, for instance, Sweetbriar, Sweetwilliam and Mambrino, three of the stallions painted by Stubbs for his largely unfinished Turf Review project. Otho's progeny included Comus, Dorimant, Coxcomb and Saturn.

Neither T02375 nor any other sporting picture was included in the sale after his death of Lord Ossory's collection of paintings by Old Masters and contemporary British artists (Christie's, 8 April 1819). He had no son, and the picture may have been inherited by one of his daughters. It is not known when it entered the Monson collection; the present Lady Monson suggests that it was probably purchased by the 6th Baron Monson (1796–1862) or, if not by him, by the 3rd or 4th Baron.

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

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