Cost O’ Cows & Horses

John Fernely, a successful Victorian dauber who lived in Melton Mowbray, charged ten pounds to paint a portrait of a horse, but only seven pounds for a portrait of a cow. Were these costs fair? Would you have been prepared to pay more for a cow picture than a horse painting? If not, why not? What do you think was going on in Fernely’s head when he set these prices? Comments please.

7 thoughts on “Cost O’ Cows & Horses

  1. It’s a question of sheen, albedo, call it what you will. Yer cow is much less glossy than yer ‘orse so it takes a lot less time to perfect the bovine portrait. The fact that Fernely charged 40 guineas for a portrait of a Tansy Beetle (chrysolina graminis) rather proves the point, although he may have been factoring in travel costs, since the Tansy is rarely seen south of the Yorkshire Ouse, some 80 miles from his habitual stomping-grounds.

  2. One need only splodge some black and white marks onto a canvas in a form that approximately resembles a quadruped in order to satisfy the majority of of cow-owners who would be far to busy attending to mulch, silage and flapping barn-doors to care two hoots for the verisimilitude or otherwise of a cow portrait. Remember, these are practical, hardy folk with little time for fine art.

    Horse-people are a different matter: They are the sophisticates and fops of animal-husbandry. I imagine them with their lavender britches and crimson cravats, lah-de-dah-ing and prancing around the distracted horse-portraitist. Forever nit-picking the horse-owner is a hellish client – I would have charged them double!

  3. Mr Shuddery,
    Are you suggesting that cow owners maybe thought of as myspace types whereas, horse owners tend toward Facebook perhaps?


    I am noticing a distinct anti-cravat sentiment within Hooting Yard of late Mr Key…
    I do hope, as a cravat wearer myself, that this will be a short lived tendency…

  4. I would have thought that the extra appendages of a cow would make it more costly to paint than a horse. Those wonderful gleaming horns and then there are of course, the udders. My cow daisy has a fine pair that ejaculate clotted cream at a glance! Now if somebody could paint that i would pay them more than the aforesaid amount and throw in a couple of scones too!

  5. Kats, that may be the truth but you have overlooked a key fact difference between cows and horses:

    The average cow is a contented animal who is quite happy to remain rooted to the spot as long as there are enough fronds of grass to munch. The bovine will stand and ruminate for as long as need be, contented as that laughing cow on the darylea-cheese triangle. (see: )

    The horse on the other hand is wild at heart, skittish and easily frightened. It longs to prance and whinny on it’s spring-heeled tippy-toes. Fleet of foot , agile and restless – Could there be any less bovine creature than the horse?

    One need scaresly wonder why the Victorian painter should find it harder to paint a Horse, the equine blur.

  6. I think you’ll find that Fernely was simply being a shrewd businessman. He realised that horses, being more affluent than cows, would be prepared to stump up more money for a portrait than would cattle.

    It’s a classic example of market horses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.