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John Wootton, circa 1682 - 1764 'The Earl of
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John Wootton, circa 1682 - 1764 'The Earl of Oxford's Roan or Bloody shouldered Arabian with Arab groom and dog' oil on canvas, signed, 131cm x 116cm Provenance: By repute Henry Cecil, first Marquess of Exeter 1754 - 1804 married Emma Vernon ,1776 of Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire. Private Collection Worcestershire. Wootton was born in Snitterfield, Warwickshire and studied under Jan Wyck (1640 - 1700), a Dutch equestrian and landscape painter who had settled in England. Wootton was the first Englishman to paint horse portraits and was considered the leading horse painter of his day. Wootton could boast both aristocratic and Royal patronage. Frederick, Prince of Wales was one of Wootton's patrons. The composition of this picture is one that the artist repeated on many occasions. It can be compared to Wootton's famous 'Godolphin Arabian' of 1731. The spirited animal is held by a groom wearing exotic Eastern dress. The classical temple and urn representing the glories of Western civilization were undoubtedly inspired by the landscapes of Claude and Poussin whose paintings Wootton would have admired in his patron's collections. The Earl of Oxford was one of Wootton's greatest patrons. Records indicate that Wootton painted no fewer than nine portraits of the bloody shouldered Arabian, common practice for such a famous subject. The first was finished in 1724. Of the nine, three are still known, a version was included in Wootton's studio sale in 1761. The Oxford bloody shouldered Arabian was bought from the Bedouin in Aleppo, now Northern Syria by Nathaniel Harley, a merchant who had settled in Turkey in 1686. Harley wrote that the horse was of the Gordeen breed 'of which there's now few remaining'. The distinctive red mark on the horse's shoulder was considered by the Bedouin to be the blood of the Prophet and that the horse was blessed as a result. Harley purchased the horse on behalf of his nephew Edward, Lord Harley (1689 - 1741) who was later to become the second Earl of Oxford. Harley had great difficulty in exporting the horse, with prolonged bureaucratic and legal problems causing the animal to remain at Aleppo for four years. The horse was finally exported to England early in 1720. Harley notes that to his surprise and, no doubt, disappointment the Arabs brilliant blood red mark had 'all but worn off' during the stallions enforced stay in the port. The horse remained with Edward, second Earl of Oxford from 1720 until 1729 before he was sold to the Duke of Somerset at Petworth for '100 broad pieces'. Harley described the horse as having 'a good body, a fine, long, well shaped neck, a pair of glistering eyes and stands upon four good legs'. He adds that he is 'undoubtedly a horse of great quality and fine parts'. He sired several noted racehorses including the Duke of Bolton's famous chestnut horse 'Sweepstakes' bred by Mr Snell in 1722 and Sir Nathaniel Curzon's 'Brisk', one of the most successful racehorses of the day.
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