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Ben Marshall - Lord Rous's bay colt Shrapnel with his trainer Richard Dixon Boyce and jockey William Arnull up

Ben Marshall

Lord Rous's bay colt Shrapnel with his trainer Richard Dixon Boyce and jockey William Arnull up

Oil on canvas: 27.1 x 37 (in) / 68.9 x 94 (cm)

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Seagrave 1768 – 1835 London

Ref: CA 248


Lord Rous’s bay colt Shrapnell with his trainer William Dixon Boyce and jockey William Arnull up


Oil on canvas: 27 1/8 x 37 in / 68.9 x 94 cm

Frame size: 34 x 44 in / 86.4 x 111.8 cm


Painted circa 1815




By descent from the great-uncle of a private collector, UK



Leicestershire Museum and Art Gallery, on loan 1967-1988

Leicestershire Museum and Art Gallery, Ben Marshall Bicentenary Exhibition, 7th October-5th November 1967, no.7

Tokyo, Museum of Western Art, English Portraits, 25th October-14th December 1975, no.37

York City Art Gallery, on loan 1988-2004

Newmarket, National Horse Racing Museum, on loan 2004-2009 and 2011-2017



Aubrey Noakes, Ben Marshall 1768-1835, London 1978, p.42, no.121



Ben Marshall was one of the finest sporting painters of the late eighteenth and first part of the nineteenth centuries. He not only brought out the physiognomy and personality of racehorses, but made sharply-observed portraits of the jockeys, owners and trainers in their orbit. By 1815, when this painting was made, Marshall was living near Newmarket, the better to indulge his love of racing and to ‘study the second animal in creation [the horse]…in all his grandeur, beauty and variety’[1]. It was also good for business, for Marshall had found that ‘a man would give me fifty guineas for painting his horse who thought ten too much to pay for the best portrait of a wife’[2].


Bred and owned by John, Baron Rous of Dennington, later 1st Earl of Stradbroke (1750-1827), Shrapnell was a bay colt by Zodiac out of Latimer, foaled in 1812. He was bred at Rous’s stud at Henham Hall in Suffolk and ran his first race at Newmarket on 26th April 1815. Marshall’s painting may commemorate this event; the breezy, panoramic landscape vividly evokes the terrain of Newmarket. In his first two seasons, Shrapnell won seven of his twenty-one races, accumulating £323 10s in prize money.


The Rous family have been established in Suffolk since at least the early fourteenth century. Baron Rous came quite late to the Turf, running five horses in his pale blue silks in 1807. Shrapnell’s trainer, Richard Dixon Boyce (c.1770-1851), started his career as a jockey, winning the 1795 St Leger on Hambletonian. As a trainer, he sent out seventeen Classic winners between 1805 and 1829, including those for five Derbys.


The jockey in this painting is William Arnull (1785-1835), always known as Bill. The son of John Arnull and nephew of Sam Arnull, he came from a famous dynasty of jockeys and trainers which continued throughout the nineteenth century. Bill married the sister-in-law of Dixon Boyce, with whom he had nine children. He won three Derbys, three 1,000 Guineas and three 2,000 Guineas. A fearless rider and ‘absolutely honest’ (by no means a universal trait on the Turf of


his day), Arnull was known to be quick-tempered and notoriously stingy with money. He was a martyr to gout, but was still riding at forty-eight, two years before his death.


Lord Rous’s second son, Admiral Henry Rous (1795-1877), inherited his father’s love of racing. He became Steward of the Jockey Club in 1838 and a virtual dictator of the Turf, imposing more stringent rules and cleaning out the Augean stable of insider-betting, nobbling and fraud which had plagued horseracing in his era.  









Leicestershire 1768 - 1835 London



Ben Marshall was the greatest horse portraitist to succeed George Stubbs. He painted racing, hunting and shooting scenes, boxing subjects, game cocks and portraits.


Marshall was born in Leicestershire, where he worked as a school master. He then moved to London and studied with the portrait painter Lemuel Francis Abbott. By the mid-1790s, Marshall had established his reputation as a leading sporting artist, enjoying patronage from the Prince of Wales and members of the aristocracy. His work was further publicised through The Sporting Magazine, which reproduced some sixty of his paintings between 1796 and 1832.


In 1812, Marshall moved to Newmarket, an area in which he found ‘many a man who will pay me fifty guineas for painting his horse, who thinks ten guineas too much for painting his wife’.  Unfortunately, he had a severe coaching accident in 1819, and suffered from temporary paralysis.  He turned to sporting journalism and became a correspondent for The Sporting Magazine, writing under the pseudonyms of Observator and Breeder of Coctails. In 1825, he returned to London, where he remained for the rest of his life.


The work of Ben Marshall is represented in Tate Britain, London; the National Portrait Gallery, London; the National Horse Racing Museum, Newmarket; the Usher Gallery, Lincoln and the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT.


[1] Sporting Magazine, September 1826, p.318, quoted in David Fuller, ‘Marshall, Benjamin (1768-1835)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford 2004.

[2] Sporting Magazine, January 1828, p.172, quoted in Fuller, op. cit.


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