The Hunt in Full Cry, 1832
Oil on canvas
Signed and dated at lower right, J.Ferneley / 1832
36 x 63 in. (91.5 x 160 cm)
Known as the "Melton Mowbray" painter, Ferneley spent most of his life in that Leicestershire town, where he painted the local gentry enjoying their favorite country sports. It was appropriate that he settled there because it was where modern fox-hunting had developed in the late eighteenth century. In an attempt to make hunting more exciting, Hugo Meynell, a local wealthy squire, had bred his hounds to be as fast as the horses so that riders could race alongside the dogs, flying over hedges and ditches--rather than taking them standing or even dismounted, as had been the case with the previous, more stately hunts. It was also at this time that riders began to wear their familiar scarlet jackets.
Ferneley recorded hunting in its heyday, when the fox-hunters were rich, the horses expensive, and the fields at their largest and most magnificent. It was definitely a sport for the wealthy. The horses would have cost as much as 200 guineas each (around $17,000 in today's money), and most owners would have had at least ten. Ferneley frequently painted the famous Quorn, Belvoir, and Cottesmore hunts. The members of these packs would subscribe to the painting by paying 5 pounds each (approximately $400 today). They would then draw lots to see who would receive the picture. Thus the artist was paid handsomely for his work, and his patrons got a good investment.
Ferneley's specialties were "scurries," long, narrow paintings recording a sequence of events in a wide, panoramic view. In this scurry, commissioned by John Drummond, the riders are shown at full gallop, leaping over hedgerows, fences, and a stream in pursuit of their prey. This is not only a hunting scene but also a series of recognizable portraits. The painting depicts a number of Drummond's friends and relatives; there is even a self-portrait of the artist--he is the rider in the white coat, going through the gate in the background. Apparently, Ferneley was infatuated with Lady Victoria Drummond, his patron's wife. He is following right behind the object of his admiration, while her husband is unceremoniously unseated in the foreground.
Commissioned by John Drummond, 1832; F. H. J. Drummond; his sale, Christie's, London, March 28, 1947, lot 46; bought by [?] Bernard; H. R. H. The Duke of Gloucester, K.G.; Walter Hutchinson; his sale, Christie's, London, July 20, 1951, lot 91; bought by Frank Partridge; H. J. Joel; his sale, Christie's, London, July 13, 1984, lot 9; private collection, U.S.; Christie's, New York, December 6, 1996, lot 42
Literature: G. Paget, The Melton Mowbray of John Ferneley, Leicester, 1931, p. 139, no. 328
Exhibited: National Gallery of British Sports and Pastimes, Hutchinson House, London, ca. 1950, no. 80
See Artist Profile