The Byerley Turk
John Wootton (1686-1765)
Oil on canvas
This magnificent equestrian portrait presents The Byerley Turk, one of the three great Arab stallions (the
other two being the Darley Arabian and the Godolphin Barb) who were brought to England between 1689
and 1730. Known as ‘the Pillars of the Stud Book’ the three horses became the main progenitors in the male
line of every modern thoroughbred in the world and it is thought the Byerley Turk is the direct ancestor
of at least five percent of all thoroughbred horses today.
The Byerley Turk was captured at the Battle of Buda in 1686-7 and according to legend, his owner Captain
(later Colonel) Robert Byerley brought him in King William’s train to Ireland where he won the King’s Cup
at Down Royal before taking part in the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Supposedly born in a thunderstorm,
the stallion was completely unafraid of thunder and gunshot.
John Wootton, one of the greatest of English horse painters, was patronised by The 3rd Duke of Beaufort
and thus came to portray most of the finest horses of his lifetime at Newmarket in England. This impressive
painting is a kind of map and calling card to show what owners of mares would get if this great horse
sired progeny for them. Held by his Arabian Groom with a mare and foal visible in the background, the
Byerley Turk is painted in the Italianate formula of a statue within a landscape.