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Sporting Art, Horses, George Stubbs, Protector, Antique Mezzotint Print, c. 1790


George Stubbs (1724-1806) (after)
Charles Howard Hodges (1764-1837) (engraver)
John & Josiah Boydell, London: March 25, 1790
Mezzotint, uncolored
14.5 x 18.25 inches, image size
17 x 20 inches, plate size
17.75 x 21.5 inches, overall

Horse portrait mezzotint print after a painting by the preeminent British horse artist of the 18th century, George Stubbs. The black stallion stands silhouetted against the sky in a field on Lord Grosvenor’s stud farm at Oxcroft. Protector was a racehorse whose wins are recounted in detail in the inscription below the title, notably a sweepstakes of 1,200 guineas in 1774 and the Jockey Club Plate in 1775. Stubbs painted the original oil in 1779 (see Egerton, p. 423). Protector was published by Josiah Boydell with Pot-8-os, a companion engraving by Hodges after Sawrey Gilpin. The paintings on which they were based probably belonged to Lord Grosvenor at the time. After Boydell died in 1817, the plate and a selection of proofs and prints were sold. According to Lennox-Boyd, the print offered here is the third state, and the only state for which extant impressions are known. Prints of Protector were still being sold by Boydell’s successors, Moon, Boys & Graves, in 1829, including colored impressions. There was also a second engraving after Stubbs’ painting of Protector, engraved and published by his son, George Townly Stubbs, in 1794.

Product Description Continues Below.


George Stubbs (1724-1806) was one of the greatest sporting artists of Georgian England. He combined science and art by painting animals with anatomical precision. After a visit to Rome and a period of residence in Liverpool, he returned to England in 1760. He also drew horses based on dissections, and in 1766 published a monumental series of engravings, Anatomy of the Horse, which cemented his reputation as a master of the subject. His vast body of work includes paintings of the prize horses of England of the late 18th century, often with their proud owners or trainers. He also painted hunting scenes, and wild animals such as lions and tigers, including some with lions stalking horses. Stubbs served as president of the Society of Artists in 1773 and though he had his quarrels with the Royal Academy, he exhibited there periodically and was elected as an Associate in 1780. Many of his paintings are in the world’s major museums, with a large number represented in the Yale Center for British Art (Paul Mellon Collection). Some of the greatest engravers and printers of the day were engaged to render Stubbs’ animal pictures as prints, including William Woollett (1735-1785), and Stubbs’ son, the printmaker George Townly Stubbs (1756-1815) (sometimes spelled “Townley”).

Charles Howard Hodges was a painter, pastel artist and mezzotint engraver, best known for his portraits. He enrolled in the Royal Academy schools in London in 1782. He began his career chiefly as a mezzotint engraver, after old master painters such as Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Reynolds, Romney and Hoppner. However, he achieved his greatest renown for his portraits of prominent individuals, in oils and pastels. In 1792 Hodges moved to the Netherlands, where he spent the rest of his life, first in The Hague and later in Amsterdam. He was a member of the Dutch artists’ association Pictura. Many of his portraits are in the collection of Dutch museums and over 40 portrait mezzotints are in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

John Boydell was a successful and influential printseller and engraver. Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery is credited with changing the course of English painting by creating a market for historical and literary works. He also encouraged the development of engraving in England with, among other things, his prints illustrating scenes from Shakespearean plays. By the late 1760s he was a successful entrepreneur in print publishing and retailing, successfully marketing his prints across the continent; he also became Lord Mayor of London in 1790. In 1773, his nephew Josiah Boydell (1752-1817) became his business partner and later his successor, trading as J. & J. Boydell.

Inscription below title: “The property of L’d Bolingbroke, was got by Match’em, his dam by Blaze, and was the dam of Herod &c. (see page 52.) at Newmarket 2d Spring meetg. 1774. Protector, (then 4 ys. old) won a Sweepstakes of 1200 gs. B.C. and rec’d a forfeit of 300 gs. he was sold to Sir Chas. Bunbury, and in the same meetg. at 7 st. 10 lb. beat L’d Abingdon’s Transit, aged 9 st. B.C. 200 gs. he also won the Jockey club plate for 4 yr. olds. 8 st. beatg. Hyacinth, Maiden and 7 others. Protector was then sold to L’d Grosvenor, and in the 2d. Octr. meetg. at 7 st. 4 lb. beat Mr Strodes, Ranger, 6 yr. old 8 st. 2 lb. B.C. 300 g. also at 8 st. 8 lb. beat Mr Panton’s Corydon. 7 st. 10 lb. B.C. 500 g. in the first Spring meetg. 1775, he won a Subscription of 200 g. 9 st. B.C. beating Magnet, Babel, and Tonquil, and in the second Spring meetg. at 7 st. 8 lb. beat L’d Clermont’s Priestess, aged 7 st. 10 lb. B.C. 500 g. and won the 140 g. for 5, and 6 yr. old. B.C. beatg. Ld Ossorys, Comus. Publish’d March 25 1790 by J. & J. Boydell, Cheapside, & at the Shakespeare Gallery, Pall Mall London.”

Condition: Generally very recently professionally cleaned and deacidified, with only minor remaining toning. A very good impression, possibly struck from the original plate in the early 19th Century, as described above.


Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 4, p. 716 (Hodges).

Egerton, Judy. George Stubbs, Painter: Catalogue Raisonné. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007. pp. 420 and 423. Online at Google Books: (1 July 2015).

Lennox-Boyd, Christopher, et al. George Stubbs: The Complete Engraved Works. London: Stipple Publishing Limited, 1989. 85.

Maxted, Ian. “The London book trades 1775-1800: a preliminary checklist of members.” Exeter Working Papers in Book History. 19 November 2009. (1 July 2015).

Redgrave, Samuel. A Dictionary of Artists of the English School: Painters, Sculptors, Architects, Engravers and Ornamentists. London: Longmans, Green, and Col., 1874. pp. 205-206.

Rusche, Harry. “Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery.”Emory University.1998.

Williamson, George C., ed. Bryan’s Dictionary of Painters and Engravers. London: G. Bell and Sons: 1930. Vol. 5, pp. 139-140 (Stubbs).

Additional information


18th Century