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22 | Edward Benjamin Herberte<br>  <i>(British, 1857-1893)</i><br><br>A COUNTRY HORSE FAIR<br>$15,000. – 20,000.<br><br><strong>Sale Price: $11,500.</strong>

Oil on canvas, 30” x 50 1⁄2”

Edward Benjamin Herberte’s depiction of A Country Horse Fair
is one of four recorded similar subjects by the artist, but the
current offering stands above the others in stature and intrigue.
Married to a prominent actress, Herberte was well known
as an artist and painter of background scenery used in many
of London’s leading theatres. Herberte often worked for the
Paragon Theatre Company, owned and operated by the Livesey
family and billed as “the largest portable theatre in England.”
A Country Horse Fair is almost certainly set in England, as
evidenced by the presence of the Paragon Theatre. What makes
the painting unusual is the depiction of American flags on the
tents.

When examining this work, the viewer’s eye is naturally drawn
to the man in the lower right, the most conspicuous person in
the painting. Herberte made the presence of this figure stand
out in two ways — the attention he paid to the man’s face (he
wants the viewer to recognize him) and the man’s attire. The
man is wearing a red-and-white-striped vest and a blue jacket,
attire that suggests a relationship to the American flags flying
in the background.

It has been suggested the man might be the illustrious showman
Phineas Taylor Barnum. Barnum visited England many times
throughout his career, including Windsor, and is said to have
presented the “Greatest Show on Earth” before Queen Victoria
and other members of the royal family. It is highly unlikely
that Barnum would have traveled to Windsor with his entire
production of hundreds of people, animals, tents, etc. for a
single performance. A much more likely scenario would be
that the “greatest showman” would have used a much smaller
and more mobile backdrop to put on his production for the
queen, a stage much like the Livesey Family’s portable Paragon
Theatre.

While no documentation exists to verify this assertion, the
conspicuously dressed man in the bottom of the painting bears
a striking resemblance to Barnum.

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