Completed Military History, Northern Ireland: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 19th C, Portraits: British 20th C 7 Further information sought regarding the artist and subject of this 'Equestrian Portrait'.

Equestrian Portrait
Topic: Subject or sitter

My interest relates to Belfast City Hall, where I am a councillor. We have one large painting on display but we don't know the painter or the subject. It looks to me to be Boer War related, or of that era. Any suggestions would be most welcome.

Jeffrey Dudgeon, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

Jade Audrey King,

This painting is now listed as after Charles Wellington Furse (1868–1904), and the title has been changed to:

Field Marshal Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts, VC, on 'Vonolel', c.1895

These changes will appear on the Your Paintings website by the end of November 2014. Thank you to all for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.


Peter Harrington,

In the book, Illustrated Memoir of Charles Wellington Furse, A.R.A. (London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1908), it states (p. 6):
"In his studio he embarked upon his most ambitious monumental portrait, the 'Lord Roberts.' Many studies were made; the composition was set out on canvas eleven feet by fifteen; the equestrian figure of Lord Roberts was completed, and some of the figures behind him, orderlies and Sikhs. The troops to the right and the background were only sketched in at the time of Furse's departure for South Africa in 1895; the canvas was then rolled up, and, in the pressure of other work, never touched again, for the picture was not a commission. It was complete, however, in essentials, and is to be seen at the Tate Gallery. A picture on a smaller scale, and different in arrangement, was finished and exhibited at the RA in 1894, and a study for this was completed as a picture later."

Peter Harrington
Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library

Betty Elzea,

I totally agree as to both artist and sitter. I wonder how it came to Belfast? It would be interesting to know where this picture fits in with the various versions mentioned.
Betty Elzea
Retired art historian

Samuel Shaw,

Yes, it's definitely Furse, Roberts and Vonolel. There are also some excellent studies by Furse, relating to his South African trip, in the British Museum:

The best account of this period in the artist's regrettably short career is the illustrated memoir mentioned by Peter Harrington; otherwise more work needs to be done on Furse's SA trip. A good comparison would be Harry Bates's sculptural portrait of Roberts, discussed in a recent essay by Jason Edwards: 'Harry Bates's Lord Roberts memorial in London, Calcutta, and Glasgow' in Julie Codell's 'Transculturation in British Art, 1770–1930' (2012)

Always good to see new work by Furse....

There seems no doubt that this is indeed "Field Marshall Frederick Lord Roberts on 'Vonolel'", a version by (or perhaps after) Charles Wellington Furse. I am sure Jenny would support this official recommendation to the collection.

Jenny Spencer-Smith,

I do indeed support the official recommendation to the collection, and suggest that the painting is titled 'Field Marshal Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts VC on "Vonolel"', c1895 [he was promoted field marshal on 25 May 1895].
But I have reservations about confirming it as a version by Furse, especially when compared to the Tate and NAM paintings, which are very similar to one another (although neither are the 11 x 15 feet mentioned in the memoir quoted above). The Belfast painting has substantial differences to these, especially with regard to Roberts's features. It would be safer to say that it is after Charles Wellington Furse, subject to further evidence or information as to its provenance.