JOHN E. FERNELEY, SNR., the son of a Leicestershire wheelwright and the youngest of six children, was discovered by the Duke of Rutland when he saw pictures Ferneley had painted on the side of a cart. The Duke persuaded the Ferneleys to allow their son to apprentice under the celebrated Benjamin Marshall in London, and it is documented that ₤200 was paid for three year’s training. In addition to copying Marshall’s horse paintings which reputedly passed for his master’s, he studied at the Royal Academy.
By 1810, Ferneley had settled in Melton Mowbray, the hunting epicenter of England, with his wife Sally Kettle where he lived until his death. Although from modest means, he was accepted as a friend by many of his titled patrons, and his house, Elgin Lodge, was the Sunday afternoon meeting point. He is known for his exceptional horse portraits, and after exchanging lessons with Sir Francis Grant, with whom he collaborated at times, his figures were as well-conceived. His color and composition are masterful, and comparable to the work of Marshall and Stubbs.
The gentleman’s hunting dress reflects the fashions of the 1840’s. His top hat is tall and has more shape than before, and his coat has a fuller skirt compared to the less practical cut-aways. Red came into vogue after the Napoleonic Wars, when returning soldiers would wear their uniforms when joining the hunt. By the 1850s it was the standard color for huntsmen and distinguished members of the hunt.