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The Rival Performers

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (painted)

  • Date:

    1839 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    John Callcott Horsley, born 1817 - died 1903 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on panel

  • Credit Line:

    Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Paintings, Room 82, The Edwin and Susan Davies Galleries, case WEST WALL

Some critics interpreted the subject as a young woman silencing her companion’s oboe to listen to the caged bird. Others read it as the bird out-performing the musician. The figures are wearing 17th-century costume and are set in the dining room of Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, which Horsley first visited in 1835.

Physical description

Oil painting entitled 'The Rival Performers' depicting a young couple seated in a window of a wood panelled room. The boy is holding an oboe, poised to play, whilst the girl clasps his wrist, looking up at a canary on a perch in front of them. There is a lute leaning against the wall beneath the bird, and a small pair of scissors and a flower on the floor by the feet of the seated girl.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (painted)


1839 (painted)


John Callcott Horsley, born 1817 - died 1903 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on panel

Marks and inscriptions

'J C Horsley/PINXIT/1839'
Signed and dated by the artist on music sheet, lower right


Height: 45.7 cm estimate, Width: 40.6 cm estimate

Object history note

Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857

Descriptive line

Oil painting entitled 'The Rival Performers' by John Callcott Horsley. Great Britain, 1839.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Parkinson, R., Victoria and Albert Museum, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, London: HMSO, 1990, pp. 129-30


Oil paint; Panel


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Canaries (birds); Musical instruments; Woodwind; Oboe; Scissors; Lutes


Paintings; Musical instruments


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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