The Godolphin Arabian was one of three great Arab stallions brought to England in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, from which most modern thoroughbreds are descended.
Contemporary accounts describe him as beautiful, powerful and strong-willed, and many of Britain's rich racing enthusiasts wanted paintings of this magnifi cent animal.
John Wootton was just the man to satisfy this demand. For much of the first half of the 18th century, he was the British aristocracy's favourite equestrian painter and ran what was effectively a workshop production line that brought him fame and wealth.
Such methods are still causing confusion and controversy in the art market today, and nothing illustrated this better than the auction of Wootton's The Great Stallion, the Godolphin Arabian in an Architectural Landscape Held by a Groom at Sotheby's in London last week.
The painting, dating from 1731 and estimated at £250,000 to £350,000, was sold by the Schofield family, which owns Godolphin House, a Grade Ilisted mansion in Cornwall.
Sotheby's catalogue entry for the painting says: "Another version of the present composition is documented as hanging at Crabbet Park and, unsurprisingly for such a famous horse, a number of copies of the composition also exist. It is likely, however, that the present painting is the prime version."
This statement incurred the wrath of the formidable Patricia Egerton who, with her husband David, has owned the Crabbet Park Godolphin Arabian for 37 years. She protested furiously that the Crabbet Park picture is the prime version, and challenged Sotheby's to place the painting it was selling alongside it.
The dispute had similarities to one in 2003 when two versions of Sir Joshua Reynolds's Portrait of Mrs Baldwin were placed side by side, resulting in Christie's withdrawing the painting from auction. The other picture, then owned by the Marquess of Lansdowne, later fetched £3·3 million at Sotheby's.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
From the Telegraph: