James Barenger, Nabob In A Landscape

James Barenger, Nabob In A Landscape

This enchanting early 19th-century oil painting by British artist James Barenger (1780-1831) depicts the horse, Nabob, within a majestic evening landscape. It captures the mysterious grandeur of the King’s hackney. The twilight years of a powerful friend.

Resting under the bough of an old oak, Nabob stands in near-silhouette. His thick muscular neck cuts above the horizon as the late-Summer sun drips gold across a river. In the distance, the rolling hills culminate in a silent peak, while in the foreground, just darkness. A peaceful escape.

The painting is inscribed ‘Nabob aged 18, Hackney of The King, 1792 1803’ in the lower right, which relates to King George III. Hackney horses were historically bred for their trotting abilities and date back to the 14th-century. In more recent times, certain breeds have been used as workhorses and for pulling carriages. With the provenance in mind, we asked The Hackney Horse Society for their views on the painting and received a thorough response which can be sent upon request. Here’s an excerpt:

“Firstly the horse must have had some claim to fame to have had his portrait commissioned. The background could easily be Windsor, and the fact that the horse is docked would lend credence to him being a harness horse, as this was thought practical to stop long tails getting tangled up in the harness."

“George III also liked and used Windsor as a base unlike the previous two Georges. George III also liked his horses, being a keen fan of racing and haute ecole, the early dressage. He built or certainly renovated the stables at Windsor, though George IV improved on them again during his tenure. Royal horses would have been either ceremonial or household. As there were no motor cars any tour/trip involving the royal household would have utilised horses. Apparently, George III liked these little excursions and took a personal interest in the logistics.”

The Society kindly sent our request on to a contact at Windsor who in turn involved the Royal Collection. Unfortunately, very few archival records exist relating to George III’s horses but encouragingly, there were three called Nabob.

“We have very few records relating to horses in the reign of George III, but I have found reference to three horses called Nabob in a volume of George III’s coach horses, covering the period 1784 to 1786. The first Nabob is listed under ‘John Kemp’s Sett of Blacks’ in a list of ‘His Majesty’s Coach Horses taken July 1st 1784’. This horse is noted as being age 9 and from Choppin. A later note says he was ‘cast’ in 1785. Another Nabob is listed under ‘George De Luce’s Sett of Blacks’ in the same list, age 6, height 15.32 and noted as having been sent from Hanover on 12 June 1784. The third Nabob is a bay horse, aged 8 and from Earley. He appears in a list of Coachman’s Horses in 1785.”

Researching this splendid painting has been a joy and a privilege. For us, it stands for something grander than the life of a single hackney. It represents the rich tradition of serving horses and the quiet nobility of Royal equine.

Signed, inscribed and dated in the lower right. Housed within a period gilt frame. Previously sold at Christie’s in 2005.

Please note that this painting will need to be crated if shipped overseas. A cost for the crate will be added on during checkout.

Learn more about James Barenger in our directory.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 44½” x 36½” / 113cm x 93cm
Year of creation: c. 1805
Condition: Artwork presents well. Craquelure but the paint is stable. Canvas relined. Frame with some light wear.
Artist’s auction highlight: £55,000 achieved for an oil painting in 1998.

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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