James Harvey British Art


The Great Match
Dimenions: Height: 69.0 cm
Width: 79.5 cm
Stock No.: P2I0377
Location: Gallery (Chelsea)
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A Race between Hambletonian and Diamond, 25th March, 1799
Signed indistinctly, lower right
Oil on canvas
Unframed: 21¼ x 24 in (54 x 61cm)
Framed: 27¼ x 31¼ in (69 x 79.5 cm)

This painting depicts the famous match, for the enormous sum of 3,000 guineas, which took place at Newmarket on 25th March 1799 between Hambletonian owned by Sir Harry Fane Tempest and Diamond owned by Mr Cookson. Hambletonian was ridden by the peerless Frank Buckle, and his opponent by Dennis Fitzgerald.

Hambletonian was a bay colt bred by John Hutchinson of Shipton, near York, in 1792 and was got by King Fergus out of a mare by Highflyer. Hambletonian was a prolific winner as a young horse on the Northern Circuit, principally at York and at Doncaster, and followed these successes with races won at Newmarket from 1797 onwards. Hambletonian was never beaten; his most famous portrait is the sublime life-size picture by Stubbs (National Trust) whilst being rubbed down after a race.

Diamond was a brown colt bred by Francis Dawson in 1792 and sold to Mr. Cookson at the end of 1796. He was got by Highflyer out of a mare by Match'em. He, too, was a prolific winner at Newmarket and elsewhere from 1795 until his retirement to stud in 1800, the year after the death of his owner. Shortly afterwards he was sent out to America where he became an important stallion.

The following is a record of the race itself, taken from Portraits of Famous Racehorses, Vol I, page

'The 25th March 1799 was the appointed day on which Sir H V Tempest's famous racehorse, Hambetonian, met his distinguished rival, Mr Cookson's Diamond, in a match for 3000 guineas a side, over the Beacon Course at Newmarket. The betting, which in those days was seldom heavy, except on matches, was on this occasion quite unprecedented as to the amount, the odds ranging from 6- to 5- to 4-1 on Hambletonian. When Frank Buckle jumped into Hambletonian's saddle, Sir Harry Tempest (the owner) grasped his calm and firm hand in his own fevered grasp, and exclaimed “I would give half my fortune, Frank, for such a nerve as yours.” The result of this great match by no means proved the superiority of Hambletonian over Diamond. In the first place, though Hambletonian was never beaten, Diamond ran many more races, winning a large proportion of them, and at very long distances, many of them being 4-mile heats; secondly, the horses which Diamond beat were of a higher class than those Hambletonian beat; and lastly, the latter had the advantage of a whole year's rest in 1798, while Diamond ran the whole year through.”

In the end Hambletonian beat Diamond by a short head in the race, and many shrewd judges considered the jockey had won the match as much as the horse.

John Nost Sartorius was the son and pupil of the sporting painter Francis Sartorius, whose style is very similar to his own. A prolific painter of every aspect of the country life and rural sports, Sartorius has left us with a brilliant record of the sporting life of the late Georgian era. Like
his father (and, to a degree, his own son John Francis Sartorius) he was itinerant, and his paintings are to be found in very many country houses the length and breadth of England.

Sartorius painted many sporting scenes for clients whom he met at the Newmarket races, and his clientele numbered many of the most famous aristocratic sportsmen of his age: Lords Derby, Foley, Kingston, the breeders and owners Christopher Wilson and Sir Charles Bunbury, and grandest of all, The Prince of Wales. His paintings are as popular today as they were in his own lifetime. Despite the exclusively rural content of his paintings, Sartorius lived for the greater part of his life in Soho: in 1787 John Nost Sartorius was living at 2, Spur Street, Leicester Square, where his father later joined him.

Late in life he moved to the then near-rural delights of Kennington, where he died in a house near the famous cricket ground, the Oval. Despite a life’s work of prodigious productivity, his estate was valued at only £20 when administration of his will was granted to his son John Francis Sartorius.