Jacques Laurent Agasse

Lord Rivers’s Groom Leading a Chestnut Hunter towards a Coursing Party in Hampshire


Not on display

Jacques Laurent Agasse 1767–1849
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 660 × 625 mm
frame: 849 × 788 × 90 mm
Presented by Paul Mellon through the British Sporting Art Trust 1979

Display caption

Agasse was influenced by his older contemporary George Stubbs who was the greatest of horse-painters. This can be seen in Agasse's highly polished technique and carefully balanced compositions. Like Stubbs, he attempted a broad range of sporting and animal subjects, including portraits of exotic beasts and rural scenes on the periphery of a sporting event. Here, Agasse focuses on the unusual pose of the horse and groom, viewed from behind, rather than on the action of the hare-coursing party seen in the distance. Agasse was Swiss-born but came to England in 1800 under the patronage of Lord Rivers, a noted sportsman. His estate at Stratfield Saye in Hampshire is the probable setting of this scene.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry


Inscribed ‘J.L. Aga∫se’ lower left
Oil on canvas, 26 3/4 × 24 5/8 (67.9 × 52.5)
Presented by Mr Paul Mellon KBE through the British Sporting Art Trust 1979
Prov: George Pitt, 2nd Baron Rivers, by family descent to George Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers; bequeathed by him to Mrs. Stella Edith Maumen, by whom sold through John Baskett to Paul Mellon 1969.
Lit: Recorded in Agasse's MS. Record Book (coll. Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva): ‘September 22 1807 P[ortrait] of a chestnut horse led by a groom - Hant's - s[ize] 3/4’; Egerton, 1978, no.191, repr. pl.64; The Tate Gallery 1978–80, p.33, repr. in col.

The groom wears Lord Rivers's livery, dark blue greatcoat with yellow collar and cuffs and cockaded hat trimmed with yellow. The group of riders in the background probably includes 2nd Baron Rivers (1751–1828) of Stratfield Saye, Hampshire, Agasse's first, most important and most faithful English patron; and since Agasse records that this scene was painted in Hampshire, it is probably near Stratfield Saye. Lord Rivers bred greyhounds both at Stratfield Saye (where he also had a famous stud) and at his Cambridgeshire estate, Hare Park, aptly named and conveniently situated for coursing meetings at Swaffham and Newmarket.

Agasse reflected Lord Rivers's enthusiasm for coursing in some of his most brilliant canvases. Lord Rivers, shading his eyes from the sun, is the central figure in ‘Lord Rivers and his friends coursing’ of which there are two versions: (i) ? painted 1815; coll. George Lane Fox, Bramham Park, Yorkshire; exh. Arts Council, British Sporting Painting 1650–1850, 1974–5, 126; (ii)? painted 1818, coll. Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva. A portrait of Lord Rivers walking in his park with two of his greyhounds (coll. Jockey Club) was engraved in mezzotint by J. Porter, published 1827 (repr. Frank Siltzer, Newmarket, 1923, facing p. 130). A larger than life-size portrait of Lord Rivers's greyhounds ‘Rolla and Portia’, 1805, is in the collection of the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva; a group of nine greyhounds, almost certainly painted for Lord Rivers, is in the collection of Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon.

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

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