As the first Englishman to paint equestrian portraits, Wootton was undisputed in his position as the horse painter to the aristocracy from around 1710 to 1740. In this instance, the yellow and blue livery is that of the Duke of Devonshire’s stable. Stylistically, the painting may be dated to 1720-25, before the Racing Calendar began, which means that there are no records of Scamp. He was, however, clearly well-regarded by his owner, who commissioned Wootton to paint him at least two other times: in a canvas that was with Arthur Ackermann and Son (in which the horse is named Squirrel); and again in a canvas which hangs at Chatsworth, which is inscribed “The Duke of/Devonshire’s horse/Scamp” and shows the 3rd Duke (1698-1755) in the middle distance with a jockey and a number of other figures.
John Wootton was reputedly born in 1683 in Snitterfield, Warwickshire, and spent his early life as a page to the daughter of the Duke of Beaufort. He studied under Jan Wyck, and was a member (and in 1717, Steward) of the Society of Virtuosi of St. Luke. His portraits were often life-sized and he painted most of the famous racehorses of his time. Frederick, Prince of Wales, became one of Wootton’s major patrons, and it was for him he painted one of his large hunting scenes in 1737. His contemporaries believed him to be the highest paid artist in England. He died in 1764 and was buried in London. Wootton’s work is conserved in the following collections: Arundel Castle, Knole, Castle Howard, the Fitzwilliam, Longleat, Stourhead, the Royal Collection, and the Jockey Club.