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Herbert Luther Smith
John Nethercoat of Moulton Grange

The Painting
A watercolour measuring 21½” x 15½”. Signed Herbert L. Smith and dated 1853. Provenance: there are two labels on the back by the Rooper family, descendants of the subject (further details below).

About the Artist
Herbert Luther Smith (1809-1869) was a painter of portraits, as well as historical and biblical subjects. He was the younger son of the painter Anker Smith ARA. He was born in London and entered the Royal Academy schools in 1826, winning medals in 1828 and 1830. He exhibited from London in 1830-54 at the Royal Academy (27), British Institute (10) and Society of British Artists, Suffolk Street (6). He was employed by Queen Victoria to copy state portraits. There are a number of paintings by him in the Royal Collection, including a portrait of Queen Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent (painted in 1840), and a posthumous portrait of Prince Albert (painted in 1862). His portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh is in Oriel College, Oxford, and he is also represented at the British Museum, London.

The Subject
John Nethercoat (1782-1867) was squire of Moulton Grange, a country house in Northamptonshire. The medieval parish church of All Saints, Pitsford is seen in the background. John Nethercoat succeeded his father Roger as squire of Moulton Grange in 1800. He became a Magistrate and Deputy-Lieutenant for the county of Northamptonshire and served as High Sheriff in 1822. He was a director of the Northampton & Northamptonshire Union Bank, and served on the management committee of the General Lunatic Asylum alongside Earl Spencer and other worthies. He was an accomplished horseman and a prominent member of the famous Pytchley Hunt. He was considered the model of a country gentleman, as attested by the following obituary published on 4 January 1868 in the Northampton Herald:

Read more - Obituary

‘It is our painful duty in our impression of to-day to record the death of one whose absence from amongst us will be long and deeply felt. Few in this county have not known, and fewer knowing have not loved, John Nethercoat, of Moulton Grange. With him we lose the last of our country squires of the good old type… [and] the only surviving remnant of the old Pytchley Club.

Born on the last day of the year 1782, Mr. Nethercoat was on the verge of completing his 85th year; but so robust was his constitution, and so little did he know of the real ailments of old age, that, within a few days of his death, his well-known form was seen occupying its accustomed place of the magisterial bench. To look at him was to confirm what we have often heard, that, throughout his long life, he never made an enemy or lost a friend. From early life an ardent lover of hunting, he did not altogether relinquish the saddle until he had passed his 80th year, and up to the last no one’s presence at the meet was more heartily welcomed.

Possessing good nerve and an excellent eye, he was invariably amongst the few who really rode to hounds, and the sale of his famous chestnut horse to Mr. Cook, of Hothorpe, for the then unheard of sum of 620 guineas, may be found recorded in the “Quarterly Review” as one of the noteworthy incidents of Northamptonshire modern history…

As landlord, neighbour, friend, master, and for a punctual and prudent exercise of his duties as a magistrate, Mr. Nethercoat will be long and affectionately remembered, and live in the memory of all who knew him as the model of a country gentleman.

The remains of the lamented gentleman were interred yesterday, amidst the universal sorrowing of his neighbours.’

Read more - Provenance

There are two labels on the back of the painting by descendants of John Nethercoat:

(1) A hand-written label: ‘W.O. Rooper / 28 Arthur Road / Winchester’. This is Walter Osmond Rooper, a grandson of John Nethercoat.

The painting then passed to his nephew, John Royden Rooper, author of the second label.

(2) A type-written label: ‘John Nethercoat of Moulton Grange Northamptonshire (Water colour 33” x 27” by Herbert L. Smith Delt 1853). Note by J.R.R. This Nethercoat was brother to Charlotte Eliza Nethercoat, daughter of John Nethercoat of Moulton Grange, Northamptonshire, born 1782, who married my Grand-father, Capt. John Rooper on 22nd October, 1842. She was born in 1819 and died in 1885. The name is variously spelt Nethercoat and Nethercote. The Nethercoats are mentioned many times in the “History of the Pytcheley Hunt”. Note by A.N.R. Old Nethercoat was a Yeoman Farmer’.

Interestingly, J.R. Rooper has mis-identified the sitter in the painting as his grandmother’s brother, rather than her father.

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