Friday, 15 May 2009

All Change for the Old Bailey! + ***Intermission*** Hambletonian

Well, matters have come to a pretty pass in Parliament. Although I am sad at the implications, I am very glad - exhilarated even - by the latest events. The Daily Mail' campaign to prosecute various MPs for obtaining money by deception is a delightful prospect, as is Carswell's proposed vote of no confidence in the disgraceful Speaker Martin. I don't want to get too excited but I feel this is a very important moment in British political history - the collapse of the three-party consensus/stronghold might be on the cards. I hope this happens. Politics - the political class - in this country has been smug, out-of-touch, rancid and intellectually corrupt for a very long time. To speak plainly: it needs a terrific kick up the arse and now it may get one. Certainly, come the next general election we will be seeing less of certain long-term irritants - and a pack of new ones. As bus conductors used to say: 'All change, please!'

However, we all need a break and since I've done nicely on the Turf these last two weeks (big price winners and doubles and some nice wins at Newmarket) I thought I'd post this picture, which is late great Stubbs:

'...his last great masterpiece - regrettably absent from the National's show - Hambletonian, Rubbing Down (1800). In 1799, Hambletonian had contested one of the most famous match races of the era, four miles two furlongs at Newmarket against a horse called Diamond.

A vast crowd arrived for the race which, in a sense, did not disappoint. Hambletonian led until the final half mile, then Diamond began to close him down; it was head-to-head all the way to the post, when a final push gave Hambletonian victory by half a neck; but he finished the race half dead, blood streaming from the whip and spurs.

The horse's owner, Sir Harry Vane-Tempest, proudly proclaimed that there would be a painted record by "Mr Stubbs" of this victory. Yet Stubbs rendered Hambletonian not as a conqueror but as a magnificently bewildered victim: looming unsteadily into the foreground, supported by his impassive but sympathetic grooms, the pitiful brush of his tail standing aloft from his exertions.

Vane-Tempest rejected the painting. Why, it is not certain, although it may be that Stubbs's depiction of Hambletonian was a bit too damn womanish for a full-blooded sporting gentleman. Later, the painting appeared at the Royal Academy but, again, it was not well received. As Andrew Graham-Dixon has said, the realism of Stubbs was "a form of moral vision": 200 years ago, and indeed today, his love for his subject can still probe the soul to its depths.'

The rest is here.

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