- Museum number
- Object: The last horse race run before Charles the Second of blessed memory by Dorsett Ferry near Windsor Castle, August 24 1684
Four horses and riders competing in front of a stand with the Royal party; Windsor Castle in the background. 1687
- Production date
Height: 370 millimetres
Width: 512 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Text from Antony Griffiths, 'The Print in Stuart Britain', BM 1998, cat.170)
The text on this print explains that the race itself was held on 24 August 1684, but that Barlow had only designed the print, drawing the scene on the spot, three years later in 1687. The claim to topographical accuracy is only partly justified: Windsor Castle in the background is more or less correct, but the view of the Thames and Datchett (not Dorsett as Barlow has it) Ferry seems to have been reversed in the etching. Charles was a great enthusiast for racing, and was the first monarch to run horses in his own name at meetings at Newmarket and Burford Downs.
As Stephen Deucher ('Sporting art in eighteenth-century Britain', New Haven 1988, pp.37-8) points out, the print raises the question why it was etched three years after the event, when Charles himself had been dead for two years. He reasonably suggests that there was a political undercurrent, in which the verses praise the good old days and, by implication, contrast them with the unsavoury present under the Catholic James II. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that Barlow was the chief producer of Whig propaganda during the Popish Plot. But the full explanation remains to be discovered.
This print has long been called the first racing print, and as long as only single-sheet prints are considered, and book-illustrations and series are ignored, this seems to be true. In the history of British printmaking this sheet stands out as something quite new and different, though there is a long gap before it was followed by Peter Tillemans (c.1684-1734), who advertised four prints of the Newmarket races and the fox chase in the Daily Post on 24 May 1725.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1986 Apr-May, Plymouth, Plymouth Museum and AG, 'Sporting Life'
2000 Jan-Mar, Ipswich, Christchurch Mansion, Printmaking in Stuart Britain
2000 May-Jul, Bristol, City Mus and AG, Printmaking in Stuart Britain
2000 Oct-Dec, Lancaster, Peter Scott Gallery, Printmaking in Stuart Britain
2000/1 Dec-Feb, Banff, Duff House, Printmaking in Stuart Britain
2001 Feb-May, Cardiff, National Mus, Printmaking in Stuart Britain
2012 Mar-Oct, Newmarket, Nat HorseRacing Mus, Palace House
- Acquisition date
- 1811 (before)
- Acquisition notes
- print laid down and the verso invisible
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Other BM number: 1972,U.941