A charming depiction of a horse being put through its paces for a prospective gentleman buyer at a horse fair. Mr John Anderson possibly held some kind of entertainment within the tent.
English 1870-1880. Unsigned
Oil on canvas. In original maple veneered frame.
Sight: 20.5" x 15.5" " (52 x 39.5 cm)
Frame: 24.5" x 20" (63 x 51 cm )
I have yet to find any references to John Anderson or Fox Green. However, I think we can safely assume the location is England, with the flag of St George flying above the tent. I am also sure of the date as the style of the John Reeves, Artists Colourman canvas stamp on the reverse, confirms a date of between 1870-1880.
Fairs were a common part of English country life from the middle ages onwards, when the original permission to hold them was often granted by Royal Charter.
By the 20th century most of these fairs had died out, although some still exist, most notably, the Appleby Horse Fair held every year in Cumbria.
At a time when country people lived isolated and hard lives, the fair was an event to look forward to, to meet old and new friends, trade, have a drink and buy the odd luxury.
The Cambridge fair became known as The Pot Fair, due to the large quantities of china that was sold there. By the 1870's fairs had become a byword for drunken and shady behaviour, but the picture shown in this painting is one of far quieter respectability.
Later these fairs, developed into the fairground ride type event, with which you may be familiar. However, in this period, they were primarily for trade.
At a time when all but the poorest country family owned a horse, these fairs were also an opportunity to buy or sell horses. The sale of horses was often assoicated with gipsey travellers, although not exclusively so.
For those interested in the history of the world of fairs and circus, Sheffield University holds the fascinating National Fairground and Circus archive available online.