Dreweatts Sponsors ‘The Sport of Kings’ at the Newbury Races

For the first time in its 250 year history, Dreweatts is sponsoring a race at Newbury Racecourse on Friday 15th April. This new venture by Dreweatts offers the perfect venue for an exhibition of highlights from the Norman R Bobins Collection of British Sporting Prints, which has a special emphasis on equestrian prints; the highlights will be on view in the pavilions at Newbury overlooking the pre-parade ring on the 15th and 16th April and then the 175 lots will be offered at auction at Donnington Priory on Wednesday 20th April. This private American collection not only covers many of Britain’s major horse racing and steeple chasing events of the 18th and 19th century, but also encompasses other gentlemanly pursuits such as fox, boar and tiger hunting, pheasant and duck shooting as well as other sports including rowing, cricket, curling, rackets and golf.

Norman R Bobins collected over a period of 25 yrs, his passion having been triggered by a visit to the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art, where he was immediately attracted by hand coloured prints in aquatint and lithography, his interest stemming as much from the medium as the subject. The qualifying criteria for inclusion in his collection were based on visual appeal and subject matter as well as on the fineness of the impression and quality of the original hand colouring. The Norman R Bobins Collection is thus of equal interest to the print connoisseur and the sports enthusiast.

The earliest sporting prints were equestrian portraits and hunting and racing scenes; these tended to be the traditional domain of the wealthy who could commission fashionable artists to depict their sporting prowess or their success at the races. Known as ‘The Sport of Kings’, horse racing and especially British horse racing, exists in two forms: flat racing, which has its championship in the summer and steeple chasing which is mainly in the winter; the latter grew out of the winter hunting season, a subject equally enjoyed by well known artists such as Sartorius, Alken, Stubbs, Herring, Hunt, Pollard, Calcraft Turner and Wolstenholme. As spring turned to summer, British ‘society’ returned to the city and the London summer season, which still today, is characterised by sporting and social events such as the Boat Race, Lord’s Test Match, the Henley Regatta and The Open. The traditional close of the London ‘season’ was the Glorious Twelfth of August, which marked the beginning of the shooting season, when ‘society’ retired to the country for the autumn to shoot grouse.

All the major (and many minor) British race courses of the time are represented in the collection including Epsom, Goodwood, Ascot, Newmarket, Doncaster, Heaton Park, St Albans, Northampton, Aylesbury and Punchestown as well as some Continental races like The Grand Prix de Paris and Baden-Baden. These highly decorative, hand-coloured engravings encompass the races, the portraits of the most notable horses of the day (many with their pedigree details), their jockeys, trainers and owners. However no collection of equestrian prints can be complete without images of the two thoroughbreds to which most of today’s thoroughbreds can be traced; Dreweatts is offering offering Francis Calcraft Turner’s pair of horse portraits of the magnificent, spirited Godolphin Arabian, Scham and the Darley Arabian, Roxana 1842 estimated at £1000-1500. An interesting set of four prints showing ‘composites’ of the most famous horses and riders between 1845-1853 is by John Frederick Herring (estimate £4000-6000), a key figure amongst eminent animal painters of the mid 19th century, who even enjoyed the patronage of Queen Victoria.

Amongst the many ‘action’ flat race prints depicting major races around the country from 1819-1852, are numerous examples by James Pollard, an associate of Herring. A particularly elegant print is the hand-coloured aquatint of the dignified Procession of His Majesty, King George IV to Ascot Heath Races and this is expected to fetch between £800-1200.

Fox hunting, a quintessentially British sport, is also well represented. An amusing group of six hand-coloured aquatints known as ‘Scenes with the Smoking Hunt’, is by Charles Loraine Smith (estimate £2000-3000) and depicts identifiable figures of the Hunt, nonchalantly puffing on cigars and even a large pipe! Bird shooting forms another important facet of the Bobins Collection; particularly fine examples are those by Robert Havell and Samuel Howitt in beautiful muted autumnal and winter landscapes. A more exotic scene is Johann Zoffany’s 1792 mezzotint of Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match at Lucknow, which is expected to realise between £1500-2000. The Nawab of Lucknow Province was renowned for his love of game-cocks and the Colonel had obligingly brought his own prized fighting cocks from England.

The collection also boasts some fine full length portraits of sportsmen such as that of a languid Prince of Wales drawn by the distinguished artist John Russell and datable to 1795 (estimate £1000-1500). The king is shown as a member of The Society of Royal Kentish Bowmen; he insisted that every member should be required to wear a ‘dandyish’ uniform and here he sets an impressive example.

Golfing prints are greatly sought after and the Bobins collection has what is generally regarded as the earliest and most iconic image of the sport. This particularly fine 1790 mezzotint by Francis Abbott depicts a somewhat haughty gentleman golfer with his caddie; it is dedicated to the oldest golf club in the world The Society of Golfers at Blackheath, and its rarity and desirability is reflected in the pre sale estimate of £6000-8000.

It is appropriate that Dreweatts, often regarded as the champion of English Country House Taste, should be sponsoring a race at Newbury, down the road from Donnington Priory where the sale will be held on Wednesday 20th April. This is Dreweatts’ first sortie into the sporting world, and it will be sponsoring The Dreweatts 1759 Handicap Stakes at 4.55pm on Friday 15th April. A cup will be presented to the winner and there will also be the ‘Best Turned Out Horse Award’ and a Prize for the ‘Winning Lad or Lass’.

To view the sale catalogue online, please click here.

For further press information please contact Vanessa Clewes Salmon: press@dnfa.com

For further information on the sale, please call Dreweatts’ Donnington Priory Salerooms on 01635 553553 or email donnington@dnfa.com

Dreweatts - 28 February 2011