George Stubbs
Otho, with John Larkin up 1768

Artwork details

George Stubbs 1724–1806
Otho, with John Larkin up
Date 1768
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 1013 x 1270 mm
frame: 1207 x 1460 x 105 mm
Acquisition Presented by Paul Mellon through the British Sporting Art Trust 1979
Not on display


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