We love it when the annual Sporting Art Auction rolls around—another chance to scour the catalogue and see which equine portraits are up for bid by our favorite nineteenth-century artist, Edward Troye. The 2018 auction taking place this Sunday, November 18, features one Troye consignment: Lot #32 Richard Singleton, 24″ x 29″ in size, with an estimated cost of $40,000–$60,000; see full catalogue entry with image here. Hopefully, the Times will one day acquire a Troye portrait for its offices, but in the meantime we have to be content with learning more about this year’s antebellum racer.
As mentioned in the catalogue summary, Richard Singleton (foaled 1828, by Bertrand out of Blackeyed Susan by Tiger), considered to be “the greatest racehorse in Kentucky” in 1834 with a race record of 12 wins in 14 career starts, was named for Richard Singleton (1772-1852), a plantation owner and horse breeder from South Carolina. Singleton had a mile-long race track next to his house, enabling him to easily “call orders to the trainers from his piazza;” his family’s collection of papers indicate that he bred his mares to the great foundation sire Sir Archie and stood stallions including Crusader (also by Sir Archie), Kosciusko and Godolphin.
Richard Singleton is one of three portraits that Troye painted of this horse for his owner, Capt. Willa Viley of Kentucky, after receiving a letter of introduction from Richard Singleton (the horseman) for whom the artist had painted five equine portraits. The other two paintings of Richard Singleton (equine) were completed by Troye in November 1834 following the horse’s last race, a victory of four-mile-heats over the Oakland Course in Louisville in October. Painted along with Richard Singleton in those two nearly identical works are Viley’s trainer, Harry, his groom, Charles, and Lew, his jockey.
The artwork that is now for sale in this year’s auction features Richard Singleton alone, “perhaps 200 lbs. heavier, in breeding condition,” according to Troye historian Harry Worcester Smith. However, the signed artwork is undated and only lists the month of May, with no year.
Smith, otherwise known as “The Troye Authority,” was responsible for reviving interest in the artist during the last century—both curating a New York exhibition of his work in 1938 and publishing in 1981 The Race Horses of America, 1832-1872, Portraits and Other Paintings by Edward Troye, the definitive volume on Troye’s career. The undated painting of Richard Singleton alone was included in the New York exhibition as #28 of 35 total works, while #21 was one of the two 1834 portraits of the horse with his connections, which was also featured as the frontispiece of the exhibition catalogue.
Although Richard Singleton at stud lacks a date, Smith identified the portrait “as a mature stallion” completed “c. 1836 or later” in his 27-page index of Troye’s portraits and other paintings from 1823 until his death in 1872. Smith must have determined that the painting was not produced during 1835, having chronicled Troye’s whereabouts related to his completed works elsewhere that year–placing him initially in Tennessee, followed by New York and remaining in Virginia from spring onward until ending the year in Pennsylvania.
The portrait may have been completed in 1836 during Troye’s tour of the South that began in South Carolina, where he painted for Wade Hampton at Millwood, with a possible stop in Kentucky at Capt. Viley’s while en route to his commissions for Col. John Crowell in Alabama and Ambrose Lecomte in Louisiana. From 1837 through 1839, Troye spent a significant amount of time in Kentucky completing numerous paintings of horses and cattle that were lithographed for The Kentucky Stock Book, though this book was never published.
The date is of no consequence to us as Troye fans–we’d bid on Richard Singleton ourselves if it didn’t break the Times’ office coffers! For more reading on Troye and related subjects, see the following links:
“Edward Troye: America’s Equine Artist,” which the Times previously contributed to American Racehorse magazine; article begins on numbered page 26 here.
“The Great Match Race” series featuring foundation sire Sir Archie’s greatest son, Sir Charles; read more here.
Thanks for reading!
Editor, Antebellum Turf Times