Major G.D. Giles
Major G.D. Giles (British, 1857–1941)
THE FINISH OF THE DERBY, 1893
Oil on canvas, 60” x 108”
Signed, dated 1894
Painted for Harry McCalmont, then by family descent
Sotheby’s, Mount Juliet - The Estate of Major Victor McCalmont, October 21, 1987
Acquired from the above sale by Arthur Ackermann
Annual Exhibition of English Sporting Paintings, Arthur Ackermann and Son, Ltd., London; October 5–29, 1988, catalogue no. 43, illustrated in color on pages 86 & 87
Isinglass was by Isonomy, who sired two Triple Crown winners in Common and Isinglass. In 1878 Isonomy won the stayers’ Triple Crown (Ascot Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup, Doncaster Cup) a feat achieved by only four other horses. Isinglass’ dam Deadlock was purchased by Captain Machell from Lord Alington for £20. Machell sold Deadlock before her son Gervas was proven to be a runner. Machell searched for the mare, but his efforts were futile. Two years later, while looking at horses at Sefton Stud, a farmer happened by on a cart and Machell was astonished to see Deadlock in the harness. The farmer eagerly traded Deadlock for a young cart colt. Machell sold Deadlock, who was in foal, to Col. Harry McCalmont for £500. e foal was Islington, a full brother to Isinglass.
Isinglass went undefeated in his 2-year-old season, going three for three and winning the Maiden and Middle Park plates at Newmarket and capturing the New Stakes at Ascot. Owner Harry McCalmont, racing manager Captain Machell, trainer James Jewit, and jockey Tommy Loates all had lofty expectations for Isinglass during his 3-year-old season. After racing in the Middle Park Plate in October, Isinglass did not make his first start as a 3-year-old until May 3, when he won the 2000 Guineas, run over the Rowley Mile in Newmarket. Two weeks later Isinglass won the 10-furlong Newmarket Stakes by three lengths. He would go on to win the Derby Stakes at Epsom — just two weeks after his victory in the Newmarket Stakes — and the Great St. Leger Stakes, making him the sixth horse ever to win the British Triple crown. Isinglass also won the Ascot Stakes, Princess of Wales’s Stakes, Eclipse Stakes, Ascot Gold Cup, and the Jockey Club Stakes and held the world record for the most money earned in a career — £58,655 — a mark that stood for 57 years.
In a New York Herald article dated June 1, 1893 with the headline “Isinglass a Derby Winner,” the scene is described:
Thousands flock to Epsom — London, May 31, 1893. is was Derby Day, the greatest day in the yearly annals of the British sporting world, when every Londoner and resident of the provinces who could possibly do so made his way to Epsom Downs, there to witness the short but always exciting race for the Derby Stakes. The day dawned dull, with occasional sunbursts. At times it was threatening, but on the whole the weather was fine. The usual immense crowds were present at the course, and the familiar scenes of bustling, hustling, and good-natured crowds on the road to the Downs were enacted as in years gone by.
The favorite in front — As they entered the straight Isinglass, who was running on the inside of the track, went to the front, closely followed by Raeburn, Royal Harry, Peppercorn, and Ravensbury. When the distance post was reached, Ravensbury had passed Royal Harry and Peppercorn and was running third. Coming on, Ravensbury gradually overhauled and headed Raeburn, but could not get near Isinglass, who was making a beautiful race… Isinglass maintained his lead from Ravensbury, and coming on, won the race by a length and a half. ere was two lengths between Ravensbury and Raeburn.
McCalmont commissioned G. D. Giles to “have the victory of Isinglass in the Derby celebrated on canvas in grand style,” according to the Worcestershire Chronicle of July 1, 1893. The commission was the most ambitious work of Giles’ career, both in scale and complexity. The size of the painting is nearly double the next-largest recorded painting by Giles, and significant effort went into the composition. Giles created great depth in the painting from right to left by gradually reducing the horses in size. He also uses the grandstands, people, tents, and flags to give added depth to the piece. Giles also took great care in his arrangement of the horses to reflect the finish of the race accurately and put forth great effort in depicting the colors of the horses and their racing silks. The reflections on the silks, the sheen of sweat on the horses, the look of concentration on Tommy Loates’ face all speak to Giles’ ability as an artist and his care for detail. Giles also included McCalmont in the painting. If you look at the group of somewhat stern looking gentleman in the grandstand, presumably other owners, you will notice McCalmont raising his walking cane above his head as he cheers on his Derby winner.