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James Cornell's Prize Bull

1846
Origin: America, Pennsylvania, Bucks County
Unframed: 12 x 16 1/8in. (30.5 x 41cm) and Framed: 13 3/4 x 18 1/8in.
Oil on yellow poplar panel
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1958.101.11,A
An image of a young bull, full-length, standing, his body facing left, with his head slightly turned toward the viewer; he is dark reddish-brown and white and has relatively short horns. At his feet are a ram and ewe lying down and two ewes standing. A second ram and two goats appear in the left distance in front of fencing or, possibly, a livestock chute; three cattle are in the right distance. A large plant is shown in the lower right corner. The sky is greyish blue with pink overtones.

The 1 3/8-inch cove-molded, black-painted frame is probably a period replacement.

Label:Two years after James C. Cornell paid for this portrait of his prize bull, he requested that Hicks paint a picture of his Bucks County landholding, a large and impressive farmscape now owned by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

In contrast to the linear, flat, and stylized animals of his kingdoms, Edward Hicks rendered the creatures in the portrait of Cornell's bull with much more finesse and sophistication, roundly dispelling any notion of his inability to paint academically. Rather he was reluctant to do so, probably because of the criticism he received from fellow Quakers early in his career. Hicks's reliance on engravings also influenced the final appearance of this picture. Printed sources by or after Gustavus Canton were used for the foreground sheep, at least.


Provenance:James C. Cornell; unidentified descendants; Lillian Harney, Trenton, NJ.
Inscription(s):In black paint on the reverse of the panel is "Prize Bull/Edw. Hicks/1846."
For wording on the original receipt, reputedly formerly glued to the reverse of the panel, see acc. no. 1960.1400.1.