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

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“Syphax” a bay racehorse in blue and gold liveried training blankets held by a groom in similar coloured livery


Oil painting on canvas 24 x 30 inches, inscribed on the reverse with the identity of the horse and the date 1734


Provenance: The property of the family the Princes Esterhazy since at least the mid-19th century.


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 attribution to Roper was proposed by David Fuller of the British Sporting Art Trust.

Syphax black colt foaled 1727 by Bay Bolton, the property of the Duke of Bolton, out of Golden Locks (got by Mostyn’s Grasshopper, her dam by Lord Bristol’s Hog). She was full brother to the Duke of Bolton’s Looby, later painted by Francis Sartorius: