An Officer on Horseback

Joshua Reynolds1760s

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Dulwich Picture Gallery

"A rare example of an oil sketch by Reynolds, this is likely to be a preparatory work for a portrait of Lord Ligonier (1680-1770), finished versions of which are now held at Fort Ligonier in Pennsylvania and at Tate Britain. In the cloud of smoke rising above the rearing horse the features of a woman can just be discerned, indicating that Reynolds had used this canvas to paint a portrait before recycling it for this sketch.

This work has been hung in the same room as the equestrian portrait of the Infante Balthasar Carlos by the studio of Velázquez, which Reynolds is likely to have admired when it was in the collection of the Gallery's founders."

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  • Title: An Officer on Horseback
  • Date: 1760s
  • Physical Dimensions: w641 x h772 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil
  • Work Nationality: British
  • Support: Canvas
  • Provenance: London, Greenwood's, Sir Joshua Reynolds sale, 14 Apr. 1796, lot 49 ('general on horseback, a sketch') or lot 52 ('A sketch, of a general on horseback'). Both bt Bourgeois; London, Noel Desenfans and/or Sir Francis Bourgeois, 1796-1807: London, Skinner and Dyke, Desenfans sale, 18 Mar. 1802, lot 151 (Descriptive Catalogue, no. 187: 'A General Officer [This portrait is asserted by some to be that of Lord Albermarle, by others of Lord Ligonier: we leave the decision to those who have known them. The scene is a field of battle, which the General enters, mounted on a fiery white steed, richly caparisoned with blue velvet, edged with gold; it's heroic rider appears to direct his course towards a warm engagement of cavalry, at a distance; he is in armour, his sword at his side, and his batoon in his hand] [2 3/4 h x 2 w] Sold, £20.7 (Bt in); London, Sir Francis Bourgeois, 1807-1811; Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; 1813 inv., no. 127 ('Reynolds, An Officer (Military) on Horseback').
  • Further Information: A sketch for an equestrian portrait. The composition derives from Bernini's equestrian statue of Louis XIV (Versailles). An underlying portrait of a young man is clearly visible above the horse's mane as first detected in the nineteenth century by the copyist W.S. Spanton. This has been confirmed by x-ray which also shows a second portrait, this time of a middle-aged man, below that of the young man. The picture remained in Reynolds's possession and was acquired by Bourgeois at the Reynolds studio sale of 1796.
  • Artist: Reynolds, Sir Joshua
  • Acquisition Method: Bourgeois, Sir Peter Francis (Bequest, 1811)


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