Dimensions: 125 x 102 cm. / 49.25 x 40.15 in., 139.5 x 120cm / 55 x 47 in. incl. frame
Signed ‘J Ross’ lower right. Framed in a Lely-pattern gilt carved frame with entwined cinquefoil decoration, c. 1700.
James Ross Senior was part of a small group of pioneering British artists who specialised in sporting paintings, along with John Wootton (ca.1682 -1765), Peter Tillemans (1684-1734) and James Seymour (ca.1702-1752).
This signed painting by Ross shows an elegant hunting party and their dogs meeting beside a manor house, with the ruins of an ancient castle or abbey beside it. In the background is a large, broad river valley with high hills in the distance; a landscape typical of the West of England. It is painted, however, in an unusually Italianate manner for this period in English art, with naturalistic figures, an architectural capriccio and an assured use of atmospheric perspective in the rendering of the hazy blue hills in the background.
According to Sally Mitchell (op. cit.), James Ross and his family probably lived in the Gloucestershire or Worcestershire area of England. The present painting’s background of a large river, wide valley and high, rolling hills in the distance bears close resemblance to his local Severn Valley. Indeed, Ross did paint known views of the Severn Valley area, for example in his set of four pictures of ‘The Duke of Beaufort’s Hunt’, each signed and variously dated 1729-33 (Christie’s, London, 15th November 1996, lot 47).
A similar capriccio-style composition by Ross, showing the influence of the Italian school of vedute painters, can also be seen in his ‘Classical Landscape with Figures’ (1729-31: Lancaster House, Government Art Collection). Ross also painted important early horse racing scenes, including ‘The Meeting at Clifton and Rawcliffe Ings, York’ (1709: Newmarket, National Horseracing Museum), where the sky is painted in a similar manner to the present picture, with bright broken skies in the distance and darker, leaden clouds near the top corners of the canvas.