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George Henry Laporte 1799-1873
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George Henry Laporte 1799-1873

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Portrait a bay racing pony, Queen of Trumps the property of Captain William Wallace Rooke Esq., JP DL, with his young racing groom William Preston up; a race taking place beyond.

 

Oil painting on canvas 28 x 36 inches; 70 x 90 cm..

 

Provenance: Capt. William Wallace Rooke (1816-1864); his younger brother Alexander Beaumont Rooke and by descent at The Ivy................;

 

Extensively inscribed on a 19th century label on the reverse of the picture

 

Painted circa 1840.

 

George Henry Laporte was a sporting painter whose work includes depictions of all aspects of country life: hunting, racing, shooting and animal still-lives. He was the son and pupil of the distinguished watercolourist John Laporte (1761-1839). He was a founder member of the Royal Society of British Artists, where he exhibited regularly. Many of his paintings were engraved for The Sporting Magazine and other journals. Laporte enjoyed a wide and prosperous patronage, and was appointed Animal Painter to the Duke of Cumberland and the King of Hanover. His painting technique is idiosyncratic and easily recognised: it is highly toned and colourful, with the paint applied in thin translucent washes – presumably reflecting the water-colourist's technique which he derived from his father.

William Wallace Rooke was born in 1816 in Walcot Park, Bath, the son of Captain Frederick William Rooke RN and his wife Ann Wallace, an heiress, whom he married in 1813 after completing his service in the Napoleonic Wars.(He had commanded a gunboat in the flotilla which thwarted the French invasion of Honduras). The family were originally from Kelswick in Cumberland, but were long settled in Wiltshire. The son was a captain in the 47th regiment of Foot, but saw little active service during the long peace which followed the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo,, He retired to his estates in Wiltshire, at The Ivy near Chippenham, where he maintained an interest in horse racing. He was successively Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the County. He died without issue in 1864, when his estate reverted first to his wife and subsequently to his younger brother Alexander.
Pony racing enjoyed a vogue in the earlier part of the 19th century. The racing was initiated to train youngsters in the art of race-riding, and many meetings took place all over England, often in conjunction with local horse-races. The present painting is a rare visual depiction of this sport. Usually, we have little knowledge of the ponies which took part (though the results were often published in The Sporting Magazine). Occasionally, we have a documented depiction of a racing pony, such as the two portraits of Copperbottom, master Westlake up, painted by Ben Marshall, but for the most part the racing was ephemeral and ill-documented. The present Queen of Trumps was doubtless named after the peerless racehorse of the same name which won the Oaks in 1834: “one of the best mares ever seen on the Turf”. The location of the race depicted in the present picture is unknown, but it bears more than a passing resemblance to the course at Bath, on the flat land above the City, and close to where the Rookes family lived. The label on the reverse states that the horse won 22 races.
 


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