Priceless 19th Century Horse Paintings Owned By The Late Marylou Whitney Headed To Sotheby’s

The paintings are the works of famed English horse painter Sir Alfred James Munnings, and one has been given an estimated hammer-price in excess of $3.5 million.

Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S., 'Mahmoud Being Saddled For The Derby,' 1936 - signed AJ Munnings (lower right), oil on canvas, 38⅝ by 51¼ in. 98.1 by 130.2 cm (Sotheby's New York)

Looking for a new conversation piece to hang on the wall of your new Saratoga vacation home? Two priceless paintings, previously owned by the “Queen of Saratoga,” Marylou Whitney, which were painted by famed English horse painter Sir Alfred James Munnings, are hitting the auction block at Sotheby’s in New York City on January 31.

The pair of paintings will be included in the upcoming Sotheby’s “19th Century European Art” showcase and include Munnings’ My Horse Anarchist (see below), which has an estimated value of between $200,000-$300,000; and the much more sought-after of the two, Mahmoud Being Saddled for the Derby (above), which has a predicted hammer-price in excess of $3.5 million.

The most ever realized for a single Munnings painting was a touch over $7.8 million in 2004 for his painting, The Red Prince Mare, also sold by Sotheby’s; previously, the painting had realized $4.3 million at Christie’s in 1999. In other words, Whitney’s Mahmoud Being Saddled for the Derby could be on its way to becoming one of the top Munnings to ever reach the auction block.

Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S., ‘My Horse Anarchist,’ signed A J Munnings (lower left), oil on canvas, 20¼ by 30⅛ in. 51.1 by 76.5 cm (Sotheby’s New York)

According to Sotheby’s, Mahmoud Being Saddled for the Derby was commissioned by horse breeder Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III, to commemorate his horse Mahmoud’s big win in the Epsom Derby at Epsom Downs in England in 1936 (the horse was also victorious in the Champagne Stakes and Richmond Stakes, both run in England the previous year). In 1940, an American consortium of race horse owners purchased Mahmoud from Aga Khan, led by Marylou’s second husband Cornelius Vanderbilt “Sonny” Whitney. Mahmoud went on to become a star stallion at the Whitney’s Kentucky barn.

Will Levith

Will Levith is Editorial Director at Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living magazine. He's a native Saratogian and graduate of Saratoga Springs High School. His work has been published by Esquire, Playboy, Condé Nast Traveler, Men's Health, RealClearLife and many others. He lives in Troy with his wife, Laura, and dog, Esopus.


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