A Pair of Pigs


about 1850

Oil on Canvas

61 x 75.5 cm

Breeders of farm animals in the 18th and 19th centuries often commissioned artists to paint exaggerated portraits of their livestock in order to impress neighbours and visitors. Portraits of overly fattened sheep, pigs and cattle appeared as a response to the innovative methods of the Leicestershire farmer Robert Bakewell (1725-95), who was recognised as an important agriculturalist and introduced grassland irrigation and other new farming practices.  Bakewell revolutionised livestock breeding by methodical selection and inbreeding, and was the first to improve animals for meat production and carcass quality. He also established on a large scale the practice of letting animals for stud. Bakewell’s farm became famous as a model of scientific management, and his annual auctions created great attention – leading to an audience with agricultural enthusiast ‘Farmer George’, King George III.