MacConnal Mason

John Frederick Herring Snr (1795-1865)

Comus – A Chestnut Racehorse in a Stable Yard

Signed and dated 1831
Oil on Canvas
10½ x 14½ inches – 26.6 x 36.8 cms

Comus was a chestnut colt foaled in 1809 by Sorcerer out of Houghton Lass. He was owned by Sir John Shelley and started favourite for the 1812 Derby on the strength of two wins at Newmarket. The colt finished third behind Mr Ladbroke’s Octavious and Lord Egremont’s Sweep, Shelley had won the Derby the previous year with Phantom. Herring painted Comus in 1831 when he had established a fine reputation at stud. He sired the St Leger winners Reveller (1818) and Matilda (1827) and Grey Comus who won the 2,000 Guineas in 1838. He is also jointly attributed as the sire of Catgut, the 1,000 Guineas winner of 1819. The dam, Vanity, had been double-covered with Juniper. Provenance: Private Collection, UK Literature: M. Seth-Smith, "History of Manton in the British Racehorse", September 1973, p.452-4 illustrated Artist Biography: John Frederick Herring Jnr. was born 21st June 1815, the eldest son of the painter of the same name (q.v.) and the year in which Herring Snr. embarked on his portraits of St. Leger winners. J. F. Herring Jnr., like his younger brother Charles (1828-1856) and Benjamin (1830-1871), studied under their father and in their early years worked as his assistants. John Frederick, a painter of sporting, animal, hunting and farmyard subjects in both oil and watercolours, was the most successful of the three brothers, exhibiting at the Royal Academy 1863-1873, at the British Institution and at the Royal Society of British Artists in Suffolk Street.

He married Kate Rolfe, the daughter of Alexander Rolfe, a landscape painter with whom his father collaborated on seven works 1857-1859, and who was herself a painter exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1852. At this date, they lived in Robert Street, Hampstead Road, London, later moving to Great Wilbraham near Cambridge by c.1870.

There is speculation that there was a falling out between father and eldest son, the latter being omitted from John Frederick Snr.’s will written following the death of his son Charles in 1856 but prior to the wedding of his daughter Jane in 1857. In an era of the nucleated family it would appear unusual for the eldest son to move as far away as Cambridge from Meopham Park near Tonbridge. However, John Frederick Jnr. may have been omitted from his father’s will, distributing a relatively small amount of money, owing to his considerable commercial success. He was a highly accomplished painter in his own right and exhibited widely, his scenes of the hunting field and the farmyard proving to be consistently popular.

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