James Seymour

Mr John Martindale’s chestnut racehorse Sedbury with jockey up

Oil on canvas: 11.7(h) x 14.9(w) in /

29.8(h) x 37.8(w) cm

Signed with initials & dated 1745

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BB 193



Circa 1702 – London – 1752


Mr John Martindale’s chestnut racehorse Sedbury with jockey up


Signed with initials and dated lower right: J:S/ 1745

Oil on canvas: 11 ¾ x 14 7/8 in / 29.8 x 37.8 cm

Frame size: 17 x 20 in / 43.2 x 50.8 cm



David Astor (1912-2001), The Manor House, Sutton Courtenay, 1949 (probably acquired with the purchase of the house in 1945 from Captain Harry Lindsay);

by descent



This striking painting depicts Sedbury, one of the most important racehorses of the mid-eighteenth century. He was portrayed by James Seymour several times and his image was disseminated by engravings after Seymour’s paintings[1]. A handsome chestnut, Sedbury is recognisable by his white blaze starting as a broad star which tapers to a narrow strip between his nostrils. He is shown on the heath south of Newmarket, looking towards Cheveley. In the right background is the town of Exning, with Ely Cathedral on the horizon. This airy landscape, scene of some of Sedbury’s triumphs, reappears in Seymour’s painting of Sir Charles Sedley’s True Blue, which was engraved by J Wood in 1753.  


Sedbury, by Mr Crofts’s Old Partner out of the celebrated Old Montague Mare, was bred in 1734 by Lord D’Arcy of Sedbury Park near Richmond, Yorkshire. James D’Arcy had served Charles II as Master of the Royal Stud after the Restoration of the Monarchy and for many years Sedbury was effectively the Royal Racing Stud.


While Sedbury was still in utero his dam was acquired by Andrew Wilkinson of Boroughbridge, Yorkshire. Wilkinson had married Barbara Jessop, granddaughter of James D’Arcy, 1st Baron D’Arcy of Navan. He sold Sedbury when a yearling to Mr Mann of Boroughbridge and often said afterwards that ‘he had sold the best horse in England for 5 gs., and never rued after’[2]. Sedbury was described as ‘a horse of exquisite beauty, of great justness of shape and form, and was indisputably the best horse of his size, at the time of his running[3].


In 1738 Sedbury won twenty guineas at Hambleton, beating Lord Halifax’s No Name and five others. Next year he won races at Carlisle, Bishop Burton and Durham, followed by the Ladies’ Plate at York in August, ridden by Thomas Jackson and carrying 10st. over four miles. In November 1739 he was bought by another Yorkshireman, Mr Martindale of Low Garterly, near Catterick, who also owned the phenomenal Regulus.  


In 1740 Sedbury won King’s Plates at Guildford and Salisbury. He won five races in 1741, including a performance at Newmarket which was the highlight of his career, beating an outstanding horse called Cade. Sedbury won three races in 1743, beating the Duke of Perth’s celebrated bay gelding Chance at York for £50. In 1744, Sedbury’s last season, he won 60gns at Newmarket, defeating the Duke of Ancaster’s Brisk on 25th March. He retired to stud at Leeming Lane near Richmond, Yorkshire and died in 1759.





Circa 1702 – London – 1752


James Seymour was born in London, the son of a banker, goldsmith and diamond merchant, who supplied plate for racing trophies.  Seymour’s father was an amateur artist, a member and, in 1702, a Steward of the Virtuosi Club of St Luke, to which John Wootton and Peter Tillemans also belonged.


Seymour began to draw at an early age and studied pictures and prints in his father’s collection. In 1720 he attended the art academy in St Martin’s Lane founded by Louis Chéron and John Vanderbank; the raffish Vanderbank became a friend. Encouraged by his father, he received introductions to the leading artists of the day. Seymour developed a passion for horse racing and is believed to have owned racehorses. He was among the first English painters to specialise exclusively in sporting subject matter. In 1739 the Universal Spectator declared that Seymour was ‘reckoned the finest draughtsman in his way [of horses, hounds etc.] in the whole world’. George Vertue noted his ‘genius to drawing of Horses’, as well as his life as a young rake: ‘the darling of his Father run thro some thousands – livd gay high and loosely – horse raceing gameing women &c.’ (Note books, vol. III, p.86). Seymour’s prolific output in paintings and sketches belies this portrait of indolence.


Among Seymour’s patrons were the banker Peter Delmé, John Jolliffe, MP and the 6th Duke of Somerset. He was commissioned by the latter to decorate a room with portraits of racehorses; however, they quarrelled and the project never materialised. Many of Seymour’s racing, hunting and stable scenes were engraved, among them Twelve Prints of Hunter and Running Horses (c.1750) and thirty-four racehorse portraits (1741-54). According to Vertue, the latter part of Seymour’s life ‘was spent in the lowest circumstances of debt’ (op. cit., vol. III, p.86). He died unmarried in Southwark on 30th June 1752.


The work of James Seymour is represented in Tate Britain, London; the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA. 


[1] For example the engraving by Houston, 1755. 

[2] Pick’s Register, vol. I, p.59, quoted in Thomas Henry Taunton, Portraits of Celebrated Racehorses, vol. I, London 1887, p.35.

[3] Pick p.59, quoted Taunton op. cit., p.33.

SportingJames Seymour