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Ben Marshall 1768-1835
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The Trimmed Cock
Oil painting on canvas 30 x 25 inches in its giltwood frame
Provenance: Painted for Daniel Lambert;…......Sale, Christies London, 13th July 1993 (lot 50); Mrs E. Clarke until 2013.
Exhibited: Royal Academy, 1812, number 703, with its companion “A Game Cock” (no. 385);
London, Piccadilly, February 1931 number 22;
London, Christies, Summer Exhibition for the British Sporting Art Trust, number 40 (illus.)
Engraved: By Charles Turner in mezzotint, and published 28th March, 1812.
Literature: Siltzer The Story of British Sporting Prints, p.178;
Alfred Whitman, Nineteenth Century Mezzotinters: Charles Turner, London, George Bell & Sons, (1907), no. 787;
Walter Shaw-Sparrow George Stubbs and Ben Marshall Cassell & Company, London (1929)
Aubrey Noakes Ben Marshall 1768-1835 pub. F. Lewis, Leigh-on-Sea (1978);
To be included in the forthcoming artist's catalogue raisonne being prepared by D W Fuller Esq.
Ben Marshall was born at Seagrave, Leicestershire on 8 November 1768, the fifth and only surviving son (beyond infancy) of Charles and Elizabeth Marshall. With a letter of recommendation from his local Member of Parliament, the twenty-three-year old Marshall went to London in 1791 to study under the portrait painter, Lemuel Francis Abbott . Painting both people and horses, Marshall quickly attracted a number of influential patrons including the Prince of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. While wary of the hanging committee at the Royal Academy, he exhibited thirteen pictures between 1800 and 1829 among which probably the best known was of the immensely fat Mr Daniel Lambert, shown in 1807. His Game Cock and The Trimmed Cock shown at the Academy in 1812 illustrate another of his interests as well as the familiar equestrian portraits.
A happy association with The Sporting Magazine led to more than sixty of his paintings being engraved in its pages. Also, after his accident, he wrote an occasional commentary under the pseudonym of “Observator”. John Ferneley and Abraham Cooper were Marshall’s pupils for a time before he left London for Norfolk in 1812 wanting to be closer to Newmarket, the centre of racing. He was now at the height of his career as a horse-painter. Most probably influenced by George Stubbs whose Anatomy of the Horse he is known to have studied, and possibly by Sawrey Gilpin, his draughtsmanship, brilliant colouring and bravura handling of paint brought an effervescent atmosphere to his racehorse portraits and the animals’ ‘connections’. When travelling on the Leeds Mail from Newmarket to Rockingham Castle in the early autumn of 1819, the coach overturned and Ben Marshall was severely injured, breaking both legs and damaging his back and head. Recovering slowly, he built a new studio at Newmarket and went back to work. Marshall returned to London in 1825 settling in the Hackney Road while still maintaining his house in Norfolk; two years later his wife Mary died. In October 1834 the artist witnessed the tragic death of his daughter whose dress caught fire which affected Marshall deeply. He died on 24 July 1835 in his sixty-seventh year.
The present painting of a black-breasted red Cock has long been considered the finest surviving portrait of a fighting cock in British art. It was painted as a companion to a portrait of a fully-fledged bird painted for Daniel Lambert (1770–1809), the famous prodigiously corpulent man who was a boon companion of the artist. The painting of the Trimmed Cock appears in the portrait of Lambert painted by Marshall which was itself exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1807, showing that the painting was already at least five years old when exhibited in 1807. The portrait was painted in Marshall's studio, and since Lambert died in 1809, it may well never have been delivered to him, remaining in the studio until exhibited at the RA in 1812.
Ben Marshall: Portrait of Daniel Lambert (Newarke Houses Museum & Gardens, Leicester) Oil on canvas 30 x 25 inches, 1806/7. The present painting may be seen leaning against the wall to the right of the sitter.
Charles Turner after Ben Marshall The Trimmed Cock (British Museum) : Lettered below image with title, and: "Painted by B.Marshall./ Engraved by C. Turner/ London, Published March 28th. 1812, by C.Turner, No. 50, Warren Street, Fitzroy Square." This mezzotint is of quite exceptional quality, reflecting that of the original painting from which it was taken.
After Charles Turner after Ben Marshall “Peace”. Although exhibited as “A game Cock” and “The Trimmed Cock”, the images were popularised in subsequent prints as “Peace” and “War”. The quality of the later reproductions is poor compared with the originals.