2020 Fine Sporting Art, American Paintings, and Sculpture

22| Edward Benjamin Herberte

A Country Horse Fair

Oil on canvas, 30" x 50.5"

15000 - 20000

Edward Benjamin Herberte’s depiction of A Country Horse Fairis one of four recorded similar subjects by the artist, but thecurrent […]

Edward Benjamin Herberte's depiction of A Country Horse Fairis one of four recorded similar subjects by the artist, but thecurrent offering stands above the others in stature and intrigue.Married to a prominent actress, Herberte was well knownas an artist and painter of background scenery used in manyof London's leading theatres. Herberte often worked for theParagon Theatre Company, owned and operated by the Liveseyfamily and billed as the largest portable theatre in England. A Country Horse Fair is almost certainly set in England, asevidenced by the presence of the Paragon Theatre. What makesthe painting unusual is the depiction of American flags on thetents.When examining this work, the viewer's eye is naturally drawnto the man in the lower right, the most conspicuous person inthe painting. Herberte made the presence of this figure standout in two ways — the attention he paid to the man's face (hewants the viewer to recognize him) and the man's attire. Theman is wearing a red-and-white-striped vest and a blue jacket,attire that suggests a relationship to the American flags flyingin the background.It has been suggested the man might be the illustrious showmanPhineas Taylor Barnum. Barnum visited England many timesthroughout his career, including Windsor, and is said to have presented the Greatest Show on Earth before Queen Victoriaand other members of the royal family. It is highly unlikelythat Barnum would have traveled to Windsor with his entireproduction of hundreds of people, animals, tents, etc. for asingle performance. A much more likely scenario would bethat the greatest showman would have used a much smaller and more mobile backdrop to put on his production for thequeen, a stage much like the Livesey Family's portable ParagonTheatre.While no documentation exists to verify this assertion, theconspicuously dressed man in the bottom of the painting bearsa striking resemblance to Barnum.

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