Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Jockeys

My bride disparagingly refers to this as my race track suit and silently gives thanks that it has been too cool to wear it out this spring. Tuesday was glorious so I wore it to lunch, which is a long walk towards ADG's suggestion to follow up The Cricketers of Vanity Fair, with The Jockey's of Vanity Fair by the Russell March.

Vanity Fair's weekly prints were drawn by a several artists, the most frequent contributor being Leslie Ward, who drew as Spy. VF print purists memorize his autobiography "Forty Years of Spy". My copy, a 1969 reissue of the 1915 original, admittedly loses style points, but I have read most of it. We'll focus on Spy's drawings today.


I'm conflicted about horse racing. I love the spectacle of Derby Day, the women in their finery, the drunken bums in the infield, even the punters wagering the rent money at the local track. In better times I've even designed racing silks for our imaginary stable, and still I'm not completely convinced that racing isn't a step or 2 away from cock fighting. As with other beliefs you have it or you don't, and no amount of logic and rational discussion will sway.

One hundred years ago when Vanity Fair was in print no such qualms existed. The cavalry was the preferred military service, the ticket to higher postings, much like fighter pilots today. Gentlemen, owned turf and steeplechase thoroughbreds, polo ponies and draft horses. They knew horseflesh, and Vanity Fair which catered to the leisure classes was right there along with them.

Arthur Coventry

The Jockeys was a series of prints included over a 30 years span. The drawings were of the top jockeys of the season, always described as paradigms of Victorian manly virtue, who ride for Lord so and so, and never a hint of bad conduct ever suspected, unlike those other guys.

Tom Cannon

Remember that these prints were included in a weekly newspaper. The color and quality are remarkable, for which the artist was paid a pittance. The color sporting prints are the most sought after by collectors.


Captain Edward Rodney Owen

Captain Owen wouldn't look out of place on a London street today.

Fred Fletcher

The remarkable thing about the Jockeys is that they were, for the most part, not young men. When drawn most were in their late 30's and early 40's, and had been racing for 15-25 years or more. Careers were longer then, than now.

Toad

Thanks to Mister Mort for allowing me to use his photo of Ascot Chang's display as my summer header.

20 comments:

ADG said...

The Vanity Fair Jockeys are great fun to collect. I owned, prior to my divorce, two of the original Jockey watercolours. Father and son Jockeys are therein...Tom Cannon, who you depict above, was the father of the windowpane overcoated Mornington Cannon found in Vanity Fair. And American Jockeys are well represented...Tod Sloan...Danny Maher...The Reiff brothers and a few more.

And finally, poor Fred Archer...depicted above...killed himself with a pistol.

Brooke Sheridan said...

Truly gorgeous! Thanks for sharing...

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