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Major Godfrey Douglas Giles (1857-1923)

Persimmon winning the Derby at Epsom Signed and dated 1896

Oil on canvas | 106.8 x 152.6 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external) | RCIN 404338

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  • Bay racehorse with jockey up in Prince of Wales's colours, finishing ahead of dark bay with jockey in blue jacket and yellow cap; rest of field well back. Behind, packed stands and Royal Enclosure with clock and Prince of Wales feathers, tower and Royal Standard. Ticket stubs appear on the racecourse ground.

    This atmospheric scene depicts the final moments of the Epsom Derby of 3 June 1896, as the Prince of Wales’s horse, Persimmon, ridden by John Watts, takes the lead from his rival St Frusquin. This victory, the first royal win for more than a century, was met with ‘tremendous enthusiasm’ as the Prince later led his colt through the crowd; the cheering lasting for a full quarter of an hour. The packed stands appear to the left, with the Union Flag flying, whilst the remaining horses and riders appear in the background.

    Foaled in 1893, by St Simon out of Perdita, Persimmon was the full brother to Diamond Jubilee, another of the Prince's successful racehorses. In 1896 he won the Derby, St. Leger and Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket for Edward VII when Prince of Wales. Persimmon was immortalized by a number of leading artists of the day, notably Emil Adam and Adrian Jones (see RCINs 402433, 406503, 7969); his mounted, stuffed head and tail are on loan to the National Horseracing Museum.

    Geoffrey Douglas Giles was born on 9 November 1857, in Karachi, India (now Pakistan). In 1884 he retired from the British army in India with the rank of major, then travelled to Paris to study painting with Carolus-Duran (1837-1917). He painted hunting scenes and horses, especially in Newmarket and exhibited scenes from his campaigns in the Sudan and Afghanistan at the Royal Academy in London from 1884 to 1888 and at the Paris Salon in 1885. The subject matter of the painting, chosen vantage point, and idea of capturing a ‘snap-shot’ of the day remind us both of the horseracing scenes by Degas (1834-1917), whose work Giles may have seen in Paris, and the influence of photography on contemporary art. Indeed this was one of the first horseraces to be filmed.

    A painting entitled ‘Persimmon Winning the 1896 Derby’ (1897, oil on canvas, 29 × 42¼ ins/73.6 × 107 cm) sold London, 17 Oct 1978.

    Possibly presented to King Edward VII when Prince of Wales; first recorded in Buckingham Palace in 1909

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas


    106.8 x 152.6 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external)

    136.0 x 182.4 x 7.7 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    "Persimmon", the Property of HRH The Prince of Wales, winning the Derby Stakes at Epsom

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.