Missing equestrian paintings of John Bowes’  Derby winners go to auction

Missing equestrian paintings of John Bowes’ Derby winners go to auction

14/11/2022     Latest News

Two miniature paintings of Derby winners belonging to John Bowes (1811-1885) – founder of the world-renowned Bowes Museum and one of the greatest racehorse owners of all times – are to be auctioned at our Pictures and Sculpture Sale on 30 November after lying unnoticed for 180 years. 

The oil on metal paintings make up a set of four identically presented paintings depicting all of John Bowes’ Derby winners. The other two are held by and are on view at the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, and until recently, art experts knew nothing about the whereabouts of the missing pair. 

The two paintings depicting ‘Mundig’ (1935 Derby Winner) and ‘Cotherstone’ (1843 Derby Winner) are accompanied by a portrait of Issac Walker, who was Head Groomsman at the Streatlam Stud owned by John Bowes. 

“It is remarkable that these paintings have finally come to light,” said David Elstob. “They have come forward from a client in Matlock, Derbyshire, who has had them in the family for as long as can be remembered. The family originated from Weardale in County Durham – close to the Bowes Museum – and the client remembers them hanging in his grandparents’ cottage in the village of Howden le Wear. His grandfather was friendly with Issac Walker’s family, which may explain how the paintings came to be in their hands.” 

Each painting measures only 12.5cm x 13cm and is presented in horse shoe frames; these are known as racing plates and would almost certainly have come from the Derby winners. It is unknown who painted them, but they are attributed to the circle of Henry Thomas Alken (1785-1851). The two paintings, together with the oil on-board portrait of Issac Walker, carry a price estimate of £1,000 - £1,500. 

The paintings are particularly significant to the equestrian world due to John Bowes’ great fame as one of the most successful racehorse owners this country has ever known. During his career, he had four Derby winners, a feat matched by only five other breeders in the history of the race. John Bowes earned a great fortune from his racing activities, which significantly funded the Bowes Museum.

The Paintings and Sculpture Sale will take place on Wednesday, 30 November, at 10 am, with viewing on 29 November between 10 am and 7 pm.

 For further information, please contact Rohan McCulloch on 01765 699200 or email: rohan@elstobandelstob.co.uk.