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Major Godfrey Douglas Giles (1857-1923)

Minoru winning the Derby, 26 May 1909 Signed and dated 1909

Oil on canvas | 239.1 x 147.7 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 406757

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  • The exciting final moments of the Epsom Derby are captured in this painting by Geoffrey Douglas Giles, as the King's horse Minoru edges ahead of Louviers to take the lead. Edward VII's biographer, Sir Sidney Lee, recorded: 'Neck and neck they raced – together they seemed to shoot past the winning post, in the midst of a great roar, partly because the people thought the King's horse had won, and partly out of sheer excitement'… There was an agonising wait, and 'then, to the great joy, the hoisting of the numbers proclaimed a royal victory by a short head. The enthusiasm was even greater then over Persimmon's famous victory of 1896. Cheering such as had never been heard before broke out' (The Life of Edward VII, pp 420-421).

    Both King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra attended the race, and news of Minoru's win was heralded by an impromptu rendition of the National Anthem as the King led his horse to the winners' enclosure. Contemporary photographs document the close race and the large crowds (see RCIN 2862569).

    Foaled in 1906, by Cyllene out of Siegel, Minoru was leased to Edward VII by his breeder Lord Wavertree, who ran a successful stud farm at Tully, County Kildare; he was trained by Richard Marsh at Egerton House Stables, Newmarket. It was Marsh who prepared Persimmon and Diamond Jubilee to win the Derby for Edward VII, when Prince of Wales. Persimmon's success of 1896 was also captured by Giles (see RCIN 404338).

    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.

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas

    Measurements

    239.1 x 147.7 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    Edward VII's "Minoru" winning the Derby, 26 May 1909.

    Edward VII's "Minoru" (Cyllene-Mother Siegel) winning the Derby, 26 May 1909.