Works by two of the most renowned equestrian artists are among an exhibition and sale being held by Christies at the end of the month on definitive British art.
The George Stubbs oil painted in 1887 of “Two hunters with a young groom and a dog by a lake” is expected to fetch between £3 million and £5 million. Sir Alfred Munnings 1950s work “H.M. The Queen and ‘Aureole’ in the Paddock at Epsom before the Coronation Cup at the Derby meeting, 1954” is expected to fetch between £400,000 and £600,000.
The identities of the subjects in the Stubbs picture are unknown, but the ambition of the composition, combined with its scale – 80cm by 99cm – suggest a patron of considerable means.
It is described as being in “exceptionally good condition”, and is in its original frame, bearing the frame-maker’s label of “Thomas Allwood, Charlotte Street” (c. 1738-c. 1799).
Munnings’ painting, from a private collection, features Queen Elizabeth II with her racehorse Aureole in the paddock before his victory in the Coronation Cup at Epsom at the Derby meeting, 1954. Standing alongside the Queen is her trainer, Captain Cecil (later Sir Cecil) Boyd-Rochfort (1887-1983), and in front the jockey (Eric) Eph Smith (1915-1972), wearing the crimson, purple and gold silks and black cap that make up the royal colours.
The race in 1954 was particularly resonant as it was run almost exactly on the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation, which had taken place at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday, June 2, 1953. Four days later, the Queen was at Epsom to watch Aureole come second to Pinza in the Derby.
Aureole was the Queen’s most successful racehorse, and earned her the position of leading owner in 1954, winning four out of his five races. A bright chestnut with a blaze and three socks, he was sired by 1933 Derby and St Leger winner Hyperion. Aureole was bred by King George VI, the Queen’s father.
Sir Alfred Munnings became the greatest British equestrian painter since George Stubbs in the 18th century.
For several years the Aureole painting was owned by John William Warner, a five-term United States Republican Senator from Virginia between 1979 and 2009. In 1957 he married Catherine Conover Mellon, the step-daughter of the notable art collector Paul Mellon. They divorced in 1973, and in December 1976 he married the actress Elizabeth Taylor. They had met in July at a British Embassy Ball held in Washington in honour of Queen Elizabeth II, whom they were photographed with.
The two pictures are part of Christie’s 250th anniversary sale Defining British Art sale on June 30.
Three major works by Francis Bacon, Sir Stanley Spencer, RA, and Laurence Stephen Lowry, RA, are also among the highlights of the sale in London.