The Race Horse Prints

The narrator, describing Stringham’s room at school, notes hanging on the wall “two late eighteenth- century coloured prints of racehorses (Trimalchio and The Pharisee), with blue chinned jockeys” (QU 9/13 ).  The sport of horse racing was led by the royal, rich, or aristocratic. Queen Anne founded the racecourse at Ascot in 1711 . The word “derby” credits the twelfth Earl of Derby who sponsored the races at Epsom about 1780. In the eighteenth century, rich owners would commission oil portraits of their horses, often also showing the owner, sometimes with a jockey. Engravings could  be made based on the paintings. The transition from hand coloring of engravings to printing with multicolored inks was an eighteenth century innovation.  During his career, John Whessel, whose engravings are shown below, moved from painting and engraving into the potentially more lucrative publishing business.

Hambletonian aquatint, 15.5 x 19.25 inches Published by John Harris, London, 1799 Engraver, John Whessel (1760 - c.1797) After painting by John Nost Sartorius (1759-828) Courtesy of www.georgeglazer.com, George Glazer Gallery, New York City."

Hambletonian
aquatint, 15.5 x 19.25 inches
Published by John Harris, London, 1799
Engraver, John Whessel (1760 – 1823)
After painting by John Nost Sartorius (1759-1828)
Courtesy of http://www.georgeglazer.com, George Glazer Gallery, New York City.

Diamond
aquatint, 15.5 x 19.25 inches
Published by John Harris, London, 1799
Engraver, John Whessel (1760 – 1823)
After painting by John Nost Sartorius (1759-1828)
Courtesy of http://www.georgeglazer.com, George Glazer Gallery, New York City.

These colored prints became collectors’ items in the nineteenth century. It is very true to type for Stringham, whose mother, as we shall soon see, was a devotee of  decor that perpetuated past grandeur, to bring these from home to school.

We are entranced  by the names of the horses. Animal names can be playful or personal.  The eighteenth century British often used classical or historical references. Whessel’s horse prints include images of Trumpator, Parasol, Bobtail, Eleanor, Meteora, Penelope, and Violante. All of these horses are listed in the Pedigree Online Thoroughbred Database, but Trimalchio and The Pharisee are not in the database.  Petronius’ Satyricon celebrates the Roman Trimalchio  for his debauchery, extravagance, and rudeness.  The Pharisees were a devout sect, predecessors of modern Jewish orthodoxy, but  many remember the Pharisees only because the New Testament Apostles report Christ’s criticisms of them. We speculate that by using names with negative connotations, Powell is offering a comic signal that these are the first of many instances  of imagined works of art in Dance.

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