John Frederick Herring, Sr.

John Frederick Herring, Sr. (British, 1795-1865)



Oil on canvas, in a carved wood frame, 21 1⁄2” x 29 1⁄2”

Signed l.r.: J.F.Herring 1823

$50,000. – 70,000.


Sir John, by Smolensko out of a Weathercock mare, is displayed standing in front of one of the great sporting estates of its time, Stapleton Park. The owner of Sir John was the Honorable Robert Edward Petre, son of Robert, 9th Baron Petre. After the death of his father in 1816 Hon. Edward Petre inherited Stapleton Park, gained the title Lord Mayor of York, and received a per annum of 20,000. Petre built a racecourse at Stapleton Park so that he could hold private race meets for his friends, meets that would often extend into three-day affairs. These meets were recalled by John William Carleton or “Craven” the editor of The Sporting Review

In days gone by the gentlemen riding meetings of Bibury and Maddington flourished. For many years the Stapleton Races “bore off the bell” commencing in 1822 and were carried on with great spirit, that year and the following, in the park of the late Honourable Edward Petre, than whom a more liberal and straightforward supporter of the Turf never existed.

Craven refers to the Stapleton Races commencing in 1822, the year in which Petre would capture his first classic race, the St. Leger with the horse Theodore. Also in 1822, Petre commissioned John Frederick Herring, Sr. to complete a number of paintings of his horses and other animals, thus commencing their relationship as artist and patron. In the book Herring & Sons by Beckett, in the chapter titled Good Friends in Yorkshire (1821-1830), Beckett tells us that:

“He (Herring) proceeded to Stapleton Park where he painted eight hunters for the Hon. Edward Petre. This marked the beginning of a long association with that dashing Sprig of the nobility who had the incredible good fortune to win four St. Legers in 1822, 1827-28 and 1829, all of which were to be immortalized in paint and engravings all in due time by Herring. He also painted other race winners for Petre.”

Beckett points out an 1822 article from The Annals of Sporting, in a lengthy and flattering review of Herring’s progress, mentioned that "he’d executed in the finest style of excellence’ portraits of animals for the Honorable E. Petre

After the 1822 victory, Petre won the prestigious St. Leger Stakes three more times in succession with Matilda 1827, the Colonel in 1828, and Rowton in 1829. While many feats in racing are considered rare or hard to attain, one owner winning three consecutive St. Leger Stakes has been accomplished only three times in the 239-year history of the race. The July 1855 issue of the New Sporting Magazine contained short histories of the past winners of the St. Leger Stakes. Of the Hon. Mr. Edward Petre’s remarkable run the author writes:

Without pretending to explain the run of good luck which characterizes the career of one individual or the recurrence of disaster after disaster which marks the fortune of another, the double victory of Mr Petre, in the two preceding years, with Matilda and The Colonel was destined to be crowned with a third triumph in succession, this year 1829 with Rowton. Nor were these victories begrudged by the racing community During his residence at Stapleton Park he had won golden opinions from all parties. His generosity his hospitality and his goodness of heart formed the theme of universal admiration and to mention the name of the Hon. Edward Petre was to associate with it every quality that adorns the character of the English country gentleman.

Herring Senior indeed ‘immortalized in paint and engravings’ many of Petre’s horses, and in doing so, the all but forgotten story of the turf devotee and his beloved Stapleton Park lives on.

Estimate: $50,000 - $70,000

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