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Richard Roper fl. before 1749 - 1765
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Richard Roper fl. before 1749 - 1765

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Mr Rogers' Bay horse “Aaron” beating Mr Aaron Lamego's Chestnut “Little Driver” in the second of three four-mile heats at Maidenhead, August 1754

 

Oil painting on canvas 30 x 40 inches

 

Inscribed “Aaron and Driver running the second heat at Maidenhead, 1754”

 

The work of Richard Roper is only slowly being disentangled from that of such contemporaries as James Seymour, Thomas Spencer, William Shaw and Francis Sartorius. His work has an immediate charm and is bold in execution and colour, and his sitters are better characterised than many of the sporting painters of this type of painting.

Edwards, writing in his “anecdotes” says of Roper that his pictures were “sufficient to satisfy the gentlemen of the Turf and Stable”. In truth his paintings have a tremendous evocative charm which is redolent of the golden age of country sports, and while they may be somewhat naïve in execution, they have a boldness and vigour which sets them apart from the run-of-the-mill equestrian portraits of his age.

The present painting shows the very strong influence of the equestrian painter James Seymour (1702-1752), and it is tempting to surmise that Roper received some instruction from him. This would place the present painting amongst his earliest works. Certainly, he worked with the artist-entrepreneur Thomas Butler of Pall Mall, who also employed Francis Sartorius (1734-1804).

The present painting is an autograph variant of the painting signed by Roper in the collection of the late Paul Mellon. Originally a set of three, depicting the three heats of a match between Aaron and Driver, two remain in the Mellon collection and the third was presented by him to the Tate Gallery, and will soon go on display at the re-vamped National Horse-racing Museum in Newmarket. This is the second in the set of three paintings depicting the three heats run in the match in August 1754 at Maidenhead between Mr Lamego's chestnut, Driver, and Mr Roger's bay, Aaron. Driver won the first heat, Aaron the second, and the match was decided by Driver's win of the third heat.
 


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