This picture was painted by George Stubbs (1724-1806) born in Liverpool, son of a currier and one of five children. He had a minimum of formal instruction: in 1739 he was briefly a pupil of the minor painter Hamlet Winstanley. This was apparently enough to launch Stubbs off as a provincial portrait painter.
His interest in anatomy and its studies continued all his life and proved to be important not only to his art but also a new contribution to science. In 1766 his Anatomy of the Horse was published. Beginning in the 1760s was Stubbs’s portrayal of wild animals.
An Associate of the Royal Academy in 1780, Stubbs was elected to full membership in 1781. Stubbs died in 1806, July 10, in poor financial circumstances.
The first recorded owner of the picture, Willoughby Lacy, an actor and theatre manager, fell into debt in later life around 1800 and it was probably at this period that he sold the picture, which then passed into successive illustrious collections before finding its way into the auction rooms : it was sold in 1966 in London for $ 211,600 by Christie's and in 1987, it sold for the then princely sum of £380,000 through the gravel of Sotheby's.
George Stubbs's ''Baron de Robeck Riding a Bay Cob'' (1791), which depicts an aristocrat on a rearing horse, was sold the same year at Sotheby's for $2.42 million. In 2006 a red and white dog painting, fetched £ 960,000 ($ 518,400) at auction at Christie's.