Watercolor, gouache, 20” x 35 1⁄2”
Signed, dated 1877
In 1877 the Grand Prix de Paris was France’s richest and most prestigious race. The Grand Prix de Paris had been created by the Société d’Encouragement, the governing body of horse racing in France, in 1863 and offered a massive 100,000-franc purse to the winner. Despite the prestige of the race, the Grand Prix was truly known as a gathering place for France’s socially elite — its running marked the beginning of the Parisian social season. Johnny Audy’s depiction of the 1877 running of the Grand Prix de Paris shows the winner, St. Christophe, crossing the finish line, but the artist also goes to great lengths to include the fashionable racegoers in the background. The immense crowds consisting of men in top hats and ladies with parasols were such an important part of the Grand Prix de Paris that very few depictions of the race do not include the well-dressed crowds as a major part of the composition.
Count de Lagrange’s two entries in the Grand Prix de Paris were St. Christophe and Vernueil. Jongleur, the winner of the French Derby, was considered the favorite to win the Grand Prix de Paris, and Vernueil was seen as the only horse who could upset the French champion. When St. Christophe cantered home to win the lucrative purse, the public was stunned.