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