Collections › MESDA Collection › Mr. William Eaton’s Horse and Dogs

Mr. William Eaton’s Horse and Dogs

Place Made:
Warren County North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
oil on canvas
HOA: 17 1/2; WOA: 14 1/4
Accession Number:
A sporting picture depicting the horse “Whittenton” and the deer dogs “rock” and “music” owned by William Eaton (1785-1869) of Halifax and Warren Counties, North Carolina. William Eaton was a wealthy planter. In 1850 the value of his real estate holdings were $75,000 and he owned more than 200 slaves. William Eaton was the son of Thomas Eaton (c.1739-1809) and Anne Stith. In 1804 he married Seigniora Macon. The WPA Guide to North Carolina called him “perhaps the wealthiest owner of land and slaves on the Roanoke River” In 1843 he hired the builder Jacob Holt to build an impressive Greek revival townhouse in Warrenton, called “Eaton Place” for his family.

Horse racing was a popular pastime in the antebellum south and Warren county was no exception. In September 1812 The Star newspaper of Raleigh announced the upcoming “Warrenton Fall Races”, a three-day event with “Balls… furnished on the evening of each days Race, by the proprietor.” (Raleigh Starr, 09/04/1812, pg. 141)

This painting follows in the tradition of George Stubbs of depicting the animals of the elite on canvas. Stubb’s work would have been known in North Carolina through the circulation of prints of his work.

INSCRIPTION: The subject of this painting is indicated by a label dated 1891 affixed to the back of the painting. This label also states—in error—that the picture was 150 years old in 1891. It likely dates to 1810-1860.

CONSERVATION: The canvas had been glued to a pine board when it arrived at MESDA. The frame had been applied to the picture by nailing it through the support board and canvas. To stabilize the painting it was removed from the board and re-framed in a non-invasive manner using the original frame.

DESCRIPTION: Painting, oil on canvas, of horse and deer dogs. The horse faces left with its left hoof lifted. It has four white socks and a blaze on its face. Its reins are tied to a tree. It wears a saddle, and his tail is bobbed. The two dogs face right, and the one furthest on the left looks up at the horse, while the other sniffs at the ground. Two trees are on the left side of the painting, and a landscape scene is in the background. The dog on the left has large black patches, while the dog on the right has small patches, one on its ear.

FRAME: Original walnut frame.

Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Paul M. Curran