This striking frieze-like composition depicts three of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s racehorses exercising on Newmarket Heath. It was painted in the early 1950s at the Freemason Lodge Stables of Captain (later Sir) Cecil Boyd-Rochfort, a war hero who was the trainer for King George VI and his daughter Queen Elizabeth II from 1943 to 1968.
From left to right the horses shown are Corporal, Biscuit and Aureole. As Corporal wasn’t foaled until 1952 this helps to date the painting to circa 1954, the year that Aureole won his famous victory in the Coronation Cup at the Derby meeting at Epsom. Munnings immortalised this triumph on canvas in H.M. The Queen and ‘Aureole’ in the Paddock at Epsom before the Coronation Cup at the Derby meeting, 1954, which exists in two versions, one in the Royal Collection, and the other sold at Christie's, London, 30 June 2016, lot 16 for £2,098,500.
Aureole was the Queen’s most successful racehorse, and earned her the position of leading owner in 1954, winning four out of his five races. A bright chestnut with a white blaze and three white socks, he was sired by Hyperion, the Derby and St Leger winner in 1933 and a leading sire. His dam Angelola, second in the 1948 Oaks and winner at the Yorkshire Oaks, also came from a royal line of breeding. Aureole ran in the Derby just six days after Queen Elizabeth’s coronation on 2 June 1953 where he was beaten by Pinza, ridden by the newly knighted Sir Gordon Richards. Aureole was bred by King George VI, the Queen’s father and, being temperamental and excitable, was known to have relished chasing stud staff around his field as they tried to retrieve him for stabling in the evenings. He later became champion sire in 1960 and 1961.
We are grateful to Lorian Peralta-Ramos, Tristram Lewis and the Curatorial staff at The Munnings Museum for their assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.