The painting that broke a Shropshire record

PUBLISHED: 15:26 11 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:08 20 February 2013

The painting that broke a Shropshire record

The painting that broke a Shropshire record

Proving once again that quality, condition and rarity are of paramount importance to collectors, fine art house Halls of Shrewsbury saw a painting by John Wootton soar to an astonishing final bid of £326,00

Painting sets a course record

Proving once again that quality, condition and rarity are of paramount importance to collectors, fine art house Halls of Shrewsbury saw a painting by John Wootton soar to an astonishing final bid of 326,000 at the October auction of paintings, jewellery and silver.

The bid smashed the house record set at 180,000 in 1997 by a Pugin table designed for Leighton Hall at Leighton, near Welshpool.

The picture, depicting the Earl of Oxfords bloody-shouldered Arabian with Arab groom and dog, was painted by Wootton in 1724 or thereabouts. It was one of nine recorded versions of this famous subject; one of the first Arab thoroughbreds to be imported to England, painted by Wootton.

This particular version had hung undisturbed in a Worcestershire farmhouse for more than 100 years, bought by the vendors great grandfather, perhaps at a house sale. During the course of its life, two holes had been crudely patched but otherwise it had not been touched.

A thick layer of soot, built up over nearly 300 years, almost completely obscured the fine detail and wonderful colours of the painting.

The original condition of the picture in its unrestored state was very appealing to buyers. It was an honest work. Any faults the painting had were there to be seen, as there had been no attempt to disguise or remedy problems by restoration in the past. It is very rare for a painting of this age to remain virtually untouched, a factor which undoubtedly contributed to its high price.

Wootton was born in Snitterfield, Warwickshire and studied under Jan Wyck (1640-1700), a Dutch equestrian and landscape painter who had settled in England. He was the first Englishman to paint horse portraits and was considered the leading horse painter of his day. He could boast both aristocratic and royal patronage, as Frederick, Prince of Wales, was one of his 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, with a saluki standing at his side.

The classical temple and urn, representing the glories of Western civilisation, 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 and classical references were highly fashionable.

This was the age of The Grand Tour when aristocratic young men would travel to Greece and Rome to absorb the culture and return civilised.

Paintings specialist William Lacey can be contacted at Halls, Welsh Bridge, Shrewsbury, tel: 01743 284777.

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