Completed British 19th C, except portraits, South West England: Artists and Subjects 55 Whose monogram is on this 1877 painting of horses in harness?

Topic: Artist

The Wilson, Cheltenham owns two pictures of horses in harness that share the same distinctive monogram and date.

Does anyone recognise this artist’s work, or could anyone decipher the letters?

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. It was found that the monogram belongs to Alfred Frank de Prades (né Anacharsis François Prestreau) (1825–1885).

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


Peter Nahum,

It definitely reads from left to right FAP. However is that the correct order of initials, or are they FPA?

I have looked in both my original book on monograms and the manuscript volume I have kept since.I do not have it. Logically it should have been by Friedrich Wilhelm Keyl, but obviously it is not. I will keep thinking and hope someone comes up with the correct answer.

Peter Nahum,

The more I have thought about this - I think it is probably by Friedrich Wilhelm Keyl signing with a different monogram, which is not unknown when artists are under contract to another.

Maria Castro,

It can't be by Friedrich Wilhelm Keyl, as he died in 1871 and the painting is clearly dated 1877.

I've sent an e-mail to the British Sporting Arts Trust. Perhaps someone there will recognize the monogram.

Louis Musgrove,

How about H A P -- Henry Arthur Payne ???

Osmund Bullock,

I don't think there's an 'H' there, Louis, and certainly not if you want to see an 'A' as well. Nor do I really think a 'W' is involved (pace Peter). I feel the first reading 'FAP' is the right one, but, yes, the 'A' could easily be the surname; and though it's far less likely in this context, such an arrangement is commonly found as a marriage monogram representing husband and wife, as in, say, Francis and Patricia Anderson.

Shifting our attention to what's above the monogram, what do people make of the ligated 'OE' (if that's what it is)? The only thing that comes to mind is 'oeuvre', which is occasionally found in English to mean a single work, and frequently is in its original French. French also has an associated verb 'oeuvrer', to toil or work, generally a literary usage. But I can't find any examples *at all* (in either collective or singular senses) of 'oeuvre' being used on its own as early as this in England, i.e. outside the very long-standing 'chef d'oeuvre', or similar phrases written as French usages (usually in italics), e.g. when giving the titles of French books like "Oeuvres Choisies de Napoléon Bonaparte"

If it does indeed stand for 'oeuvre' (or oeuvra/oeuvré, cf. 'fecit'), might this mean the artist is French? My knowledge of French art approaches zero: has anyone ever come across 'oe[uvre]' in such a context, or am I barking up quite the wrong tree?

Louis Musgrove,

Seeing an 'Aitch---- Leaning to the left going up- including the right side of the A- much better possible match than an F-- .unless the F is read backwards???

Louis Musgrove,

Or perhaps Helen Allingham nee Patterson . H A P .

I see that the paintings were given to The Wilson in 1936 by a Mrs Elwes. Elwes is quite a well-known name in Gloucestershire and there are at least two large landed estates which are or were owned by the Elwes family or families. Could there be an Elwes connection to the upper initials on both paintings which I read as 'CE'? The paintings could be British and are a standard UK board size at 18 x 24 inches each. I suspect they were a commission for the owner of a local estate, hence, if I am right, the artist may have added the owner's initials above his/her own monogram. I wonder whether The Wilson has any more specific information about their donor, Mrs Elwes, which could help identification of the family commissioning the works. I do not recognise the artist's monogram.

Mark Wilson,

Louis - it's not necessarily a 'backwards' F. Capital F's in cursive script are often written with the crossbars predominantly to the left of the upright and while this isn't cursive, that means that we have no difficulty in reading it as an F. Obviously the main reason it is done like that here is to make a distinctive and symmetrical monogram, but the most likely letters are still FAP.

As Grant say the Elwes are a prominent Gloucestershire family that still own Colesbourne Park near Cheltenham. The obvious Mrs Elwes to donate the pair of pictures in 1936 would have been Muriel (Hargreaves) Elwes (1871-1956) who was to inherit another nearby mansion, Leckhampton Court and who was married to Captain (Henry) Cecil Elwes (1874-1950) in 1901:{LPARENTHESES} 1).pdf#page=7

From that, Cecil was clearly keen on horses, though he would only have been a toddler when these were painted. So it may have been originally owned by his mother (who seems to have died in 1932), or his father the eminent botanist Henry John Elwes. In that case the following generation may have been unaware of the identity of the painter, if they were a commercial painter who just turned up to produce a number of views of the estate to order.

Cecil's uncle was the artist and traveller, Robert Elwes:{LPARENTHESES} painter)

But he and his daughters mainly seem to have worked in watercolour and none of the initials match.

So none of these seem likely for 'CE', though it's possible it stands for Colesbourne Estate.

Osmund Bullock,

Mark, neither of your links work, I'm afraid. It's a long-standing problem with URLs that contain anything in brackets, which the AD system inexplicably cannot handle. The simple solution I occasionally mention is to use a URL-shortening service such as (there are others) to make a short version of the link which will do the job. Thus & . It also has the advantage of keeping posts shorter and neater, especially where the link is very long and spreads over several lines.

Actually I think the 'F' probably *is* backwards - reversed asymmetrical letters are often found in cyphers and monograms, almost always in order to create (as Mark says) symmetry in the overall design. This is commonest where there is a repeated letter (R is particularly favoured); but where there are two different letters with similar shapes & elements, a near-symmetry can also be achieved. Thus P/R & P/B work well, and P/F (as here) is acceptable; the mixture of straight and curved top elements is visually not ideal, though, and E/F (for example) would look better.

I agree that the conjoined CE (or possibly OE) above is far more likely to relate to some place or person than to my fanciful ‘oeuvre’ idea. ‘E’ for Elwes is certainly tempting, but I too am having no luck with finding a suitable CE in the Elwes of Colesbourne/Leckhampton lineage. I wish there were a close link to the Elwes family of Billing, Northants, who repeatedly use the first or middle name ‘Cary’ and in some cases hyphenated as ‘Cary-Elwes’...but there seems not to be. ‘Colesbourne Estate’ is certainly possible, but I wonder whether the Colesbourne family are a red herring (despite its close proximity to Cheltenham) – could a member of the Billing family have retired to Cheltenham, as so many upper middle-class people did?

We really do need to discover the exact identity of the donor, Mrs Elwes: can the Collection help?

Osmund Bullock,

One thought. Marion, could we see close-ups of the part of both pictures showing the the horses' upper head & eyes (see attached)? The carriage horses of aristocratic owners usually had silvered brass harness fittings in the form of family crest, arms or coronet fixed to their leather blinkers. I think there are crests here; and though even the original paintings may not show enough detail - they would be less than half-an-inch high - it might just be possible to make out if they resemble the Elwes crest (a bunch of five arrows encircled by a snake) or not - also attached.

The other painting is at

Louis Musgrove,

Two paintings- four different horses- and lovely horses at that- no old nags. To own four matched carriage horses like that - the owner would be very rich I guess.

Osmund Bullock,

No problem, Marion, and thank you. I think crests with motto scrolls beneath are intended; but as well as being indecipherable, most of the four seem to look different. It could well be that the artist didn't attempt any detail, he just put some vaguely crest-like splodges of paint in the right places.

Nicky B,

It looks like it's either going to be TAP, ATP or TPA. However, with the enlarged 'A' this gives it more emphasis. Therefore, I do think this has got to represent either the first name or surname so ATP or TPA is more likely. One potential candidate for ATP could be Alfred Thomas Porter (1854–1937). He is listed as exhibiting at the RA from 1882-1919 from 38 Great Ormond Street in 1881.

Thanks Nicky. Although A T Porter fits the date of 1877 he was noted as a painter of historical subjects, for example gladiators during the time of the Roman Empire. I couldn't find any reference to paintings of horses by him. These two works strike me as being by a specialist in the genre, available for commissions from well-off Victorian owners of horses. As Peter and Malcolm suggested in July last year the artist initials are (probably!) FAP or FPA. The light coloured stone in the building in the image above suggests Cotswold Stone to me, which I think may be a further clue in suggesting that the pictures are likely to be local to Cheltenham.

Mark Wilson,

There's not much I could find online for Alfred Thomas Porter, but as it happens one of his two pictures on ArtUK is a triptych featuring quite a lot of horses (at the IWM):

Though that does date from 1919, 42 years after the date of these two, which would have had to be right at the start of his career. The notes on both his ArtUK entries say they are signed with initials (ATP in that case, AP monogram in a portrait that probably dates from the 1880s-90s) though I can't make either out on the ArtUK copies to check if they match the monograms seem here.

That said I still tend to read the initials as FAP as well. I also wonder if such an elaborate monogram might indicate a gifted amateur artist rather than a professional - though a specialist painter is still very likely.

Mark Wilson,

Osmund - Belated thanks for fixing those links. I usually like to 'show my workings' with links so people can see the source or where there might be useful info in the URL (as with the ArtUK ones) but bitly is very useful for longer links or where there are disruptive characters and I shall try to remember to use it.

I actually think your first instinct about the fittings is correct and any apparent differences across the four horses are due to showing highlights on the leather in paint. Unfortunately nothing much has been painted of the crest except a blob and the motto underneath, though that might be enough to rule out the Northants (Cary) Elwes with their motto being above in the example you gave.

The most likely donor must still be Muriel Elwes from the date. My 'Colesbourne Estate' was an even more desperate guess that your 'oeuvre' and it could be that they actually came from the property she inherited, Leckhampton Court, where the family moved in 1872, shortly after she was born, so these could have been painted there. Her mother was an heiress of the Platt Brothers company, the biggest textile machinery manufacturer in the world, so they weren't short of money. As Grant says the stone may be indicative of a Cotswold location, which would apply to either estate - Muriel basically married the boy next door.

In some ways it's an odd donation to make to a public gallery. With no known artist or explicit local connection, they're the sort of pictures that would mean more to the family than the public. The Elwes don't seem to have given much else and I'm not sure if they've ever been big art collectors, plants and trees seem more their thing. So it may just be that the the Gallery was asking around for stuff and, as local worthies, they gave a couple of attractive pictures.

As far as I can see, almost all paintings of horses of the period have their tails trimmed, quite often straight cut as here. I beleive it was for hygiene as well as smartness.

Jimaa Alaa,

William James Webb (Webbe) 1830 - 1904

Jimaa Alaa,

Or the artist Alfred Frank de Prades (1825-1885)

Marcie Doran,

My guess is that the larger letters are F.A.P. and that the name is to be read from left to right.

I searched the 1881 Census of England on Ancestry for men with the initials F. P. (search First Name “F*” and Last Name “P*”) who were born within 10 years of 1844 and who who were artists. Only one of the results was promising: Frederick A. Parsons, “Artist”, was a “Boarder”, unmarried, age 42, and lived at 48 Burton Street, St. Pancras, London. The record states that he was born in St. Pancras but, since he was a boarder, that information could be inaccurate..


A new search of the 1881 Census of England for men named “Frederick Parsons”, born within 10 years of 1844, shows another/possibly the same Frederick A. Parsons. He was an “Engineer”, unmarried, age 44, and a “Visitor” (along with a farmer and his wife) at the home of the station master of Chipping Ongar, Essex. This record states that he was born in Enfield, Middlesex.

A family tree shows that his full name was Frederick Anthony Parsons. He was the son of Anthony and Harriet Parsons (née Coulter) and he was baptised on December 18, 1836, in Enfield, Middlesex, and passed away on February 7, 1921.

The 1911 Census shows that "Frederick Anthony Parsons”, was a “Boarder” at 15 Osborne Road, Hornsey, Middlesex. and the "Assistant Secretary to Scientific Society”. According to a book found by Googling his name, he was the assistant secretary at the Royal Microscopical Society.

Note that the January 14, 1881, probate entry for Anthony Parsons indicates that his son “Frederick Anthony Parsons” lived at “25 Great Percy Street in the County of Middlesex”.

Of course, this is just a guess, but I'm wondering if his name shows up in any publications that list artists.


Robert Nightingale (1815–1895) has a similar work – 'Big Red in Harness’ – dated 1869. I've attached a composite. I'm not suggesting the artist was Nightingale but perhaps he taught art.

Osmund Bullock,

A F de Prades is not a bad suggestion, especially as he often conjoined his signature's A & F in a manner that's a bit similar to our monogram (see attached). He certainly painted many horses in stable and stable-yard settings, and the style is comparable.

The problem is that I've yet to find a single example of his work that bears our or indeed any other monogram, and there are many of his paintings from the 1870s to be found online. Best idea so far, though, and I wouldn't rule him out.

1 attachment
Jimaa Alaa,

I attached one of his monogram, you can see the similarity and the two letters at the top they stand for DE.
I tried to attach the image but not been able

Jimaa Alaa,

If you send your email I will send you the monogram image

Marcie Doran,

That is a remarkable discovery, Jimaa.


Perhaps Mark was correct (16/08/2020 01:22) and the setting of both works was Colesbourne Park. Although the house was demolished in the 1950s, a website shows lots of photos of the stables.

I’ve attached a few of the images in case that website is ever taken down:

“West coach house, Colesbourne Park estate”

“North coach house, Colesbourne Park estate”

“East coach house, Colesbourne Park estate”

“The Lodge to Colesbourne Park”

Osmund Bullock,

Well done, Jimaa, your image settles it. Assuming you found it online, could you please give us a link to the webpage where you found the painting?

Marcie, I looked at those Geograph photos in 2020, but as it was clear to me that none of the buildings could be the one in our painting, didn't bother to share them. Look at them properly: even the one that's most like ours (the West Coach House) is far from the same. For example, the doorway is much closer to the building's LH edge, the profile of its arch is quite different, and the arch-lintel visible on ours, together with the alternating long and short quoins lining the doorway, are all absent on the Colesbourne building. There are other differing details (such as the doors themselves) that might have changed over time, but the ones I've described could not all have done.

Marcie Doran,

Thanks for the analysis and composite, Osmund. Yes, I did think the West Coach House was the setting. Perhaps the artist widened the building’s LH edge so that the horses would fit. The low wall and the small trees are in the correct location and the vine replaces the pipe. Looking at the photo of the North Coach House, I think the pattern of the stonework around the doorway at the RH side (and likely the LH side) is quite similar. I have no idea if this artist would have painted only what was in front of him or if he would have chosen various elements that were nearby.

Well done on pinning that down. The comprehensive Wikipedia entry on de Prades includes an image of his full signature and it would be useful if someone could add the monogram version there as well.

A more accurate title for the painting would also be ' A pair of [or 'Two'] harnessed carriage horses outside a coach house'

It probably gives away a little more to someone who knows the subject, though clearly a pair of smart bays for pulling a (light?) private carriage, and with part of one visible through the doors behind. Provenance (if there is one) might lead back to the country house shown but that's best left with the collection.

Thanks to Jimaa Alaa for identifying the signature and confirming it as that of Alfred Frank de Prades (1825-1885).

Like Osmund, I can see no similarities with the coach houses of Colesborne Park, so I think we should look elsewhere. It seems to me very unlikely that such a commission would take such liberties with the architecture. The building is fairly undistinctive and it may be very hard to find a match.

Pieter's suggestion for a more helpful title is a good one.

Thanks Andrew.

Jacob's recent 'sweeping up' of old loose ends trailing off into directions generally going nowhere useful has emphasized the ease with which they are left lying around.

I suggest this is the point to end the present discussion to prevent it adding to that list with a further trail of unproveable speculations about which stables/ coachyard it might be. I think that probably rests with you.

Sorry Marcie, I don't understand what you mean by 'the other painting'. My title change suggestion is for the one that is subject of this discussion.

Osmund Bullock,

Marcie, the harness is the arrangement of straps and fittings put on a horse to enable it to be attached to a cart, carriage or other load; it's not the thing that it's to be attached to.

So both paintings show the horses harnessed (or 'harnessed up'), but not yet hitched up (or 'put to'). In the same way, a painting of a saddled horse shows it with the saddle set and strapped in place, but probably the rider not yet mounted.

"A pair of carriage horses in harness" might arguably be better than "... harnessed carriage horses". The latter is not wrong at all...but could it sound to inexpert ears as if the horses are already attached to the carriage? It's not something I feel strongly about, though.

Thanks: I didn't see the variant one that Osmund posted - to which the same title could apply, though it's clearly another pair of horses and this time including the shafts of the carriage they were for at right.

Christopher Foley,

I am afraid I came upon this correspondence only today, but I can confirm that branches of the Elwes family had at least one other signed painting, a coaching picture, by Alfred de Prades, who certainly painted the present picture.

The Elwes family was long interested in horses and art: the fondly-remembered Gerda Carslaw (1911-2004) dealt in sporting art from her house at Hills Farm Chedworth, Glos., and was well-known to a generation of collectors and dealers in the county. I was her trustee for many years. She was the daughter of Henry Cecil Elwes and Edith Muriel Elwes (nee Hargreaves) of Miserden and Leckhampton. Her parents enjoyed the proprietorial benefits of Platt's engineering company in Oldham, then the largest maker of textile machinery in the world. After moving from Lancashire to Gloucestershire, they immersed themselves in country sports, to the extent that a railway spur was built to their house so that hounds and horses could be transported to wherever hounds were meeting, and arrive fresh. They were also keen art collectors.

Leckhampton Court suffered the dilapidations of being a hospital in WW1 and a POW camp in WW2; it was sold (more or less a wreck) after the last war and is now a Sue Ryder Hospice.

I have much more information about them if the museum cares to get in touch.

So the donor of this and the other similar work at The Wilson ( can also be updated, presumably, to 'Mrs Edith Wilson of Leckhampton Court, Gloucs.' or something similar.

Can they both now close as by de Prades and with updated titles and supplementary 'more information' as appropriate?

Osmund Bullock,

I think you must mean Mrs Edith Elwes (rather than Wilson). I would actually suggest something a bit fuller, especially as she was known by her second name, Muriel; and I think her maiden name would be appropriate, too. She actually died (and at least partly lived) at Colesbourne, and in 1954 (not 1956 as given in an earlier post) - the probate index records her as " ... Edith Muriel otherwise Muriel of Colesbourne and of Leckhampton Court both in Cheltenham ...". The two places are only 7 miles apart.

Thus, perhaps, '[Mrs] Edith Muriel Elwes, née Hargreaves (1871-1954), of Colesbourne and Leckhampton Court, Gloucs'. The 'Mrs' is arguably unnecessary.

Thanks Osmund: my slip was in haste and your expansion fills things out admirably. It's remarkably common for donors to be very poorly recorded in museum cataloguing. Quite apart from the sheer incivility, failing to be specific when the information is readily available puts difficulty in the way of future provenance enquiry when that is no longer so. We've had various cases demonstrating it in other discussions.

Fred Powell-Haig,

Thank you for this incredible discussion, which I've just stumbled upon! I've been doing research on Alfred Frank de Prades (né Anacharsis François Prestreau) for the past few years. I've written a wikipedia article (q.v.) and am working on a catalogue raisonée of his works. and am positive that this is his monogramme. This work is not one that I've seen, and I'm excited to find another one of his paintings. I would love to include it in my listing, if the owner would be so kind. I can be reached at --Rev. Fred Powell-Haig

John Nicholas Bielby,

Assuming the monogram to be de Prades', I wonder if the little cipher at the top is the 'de', in capitals, with the 'D' reversed.

Osmund Bullock,

As suggested by Marcie (22/02/2023 02:06), that image comes from this painting (with its slightly odd description) currently for sale on Live Auctioneers: The date on Wikimedia is of course wrong, it is 1878, not 1873. The attached shows the monogram in situ.

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Osmund Bullock,

On reflection it might actually be 1873: one can't be sure at this resolution.

Martin Hopkinson,

Just possibly by de Prades is Hertford Museum's Open carriage with horse and groom