Summary

Framed print entitled "Phar Lap before the Chariot of the Sun" by Australian artist Joseph Luke Fleury in1932. It was originally purchased by a family friend of the vendor at an exhibition of the orginal mural in Sydney in 1932. During the exhibition, Fleury arranged for prints to be produced and sold.

Description of Content

'It represents Apollo in a golden chariot drawn by four horses, with Phar Lap in the lead. The chariot is surrounded by the Nine Muses, including Dame Nellie Melba with a golden harp. At the rear of the procession is Pegasus, with a collar of golden bells. In a mound of clouds is seen a group of the principal gods and goddesses.Cupid is descending with a laurel wreath to place around Phar Lap's neck. At the bottom of the picture, in the shadow of the cloud, is the Angel of Death, holding the torch of perpetual memory and a flaming sword, symbolising that the tragedy of Phar Lap's death will never be forgotten ...'

Physical Description

A contemporary description of it reads: 'It represents Apollo in a golden chariot drawn by four horses, with Phar Lap in the lead. The chariot is surrounded by the Nine Muses, including Dame Nellie Melba with a golden harp. At the rear of the procession is Pegasus, with a collar of golden bells. In a mound of clouds is seen a group of the principal gods and goddesses.Cupid is descending with a laurel wreath to place around Phar Lap's neck. At the bottom of the picture, in the shadow of the cloud, is the Angel of Death, holding the torch of perpetual memory and a flaming sword, symbolising that the tragedy of Phar Lap's death will never be forgotten ...'

Significance

This print testifies to the public dismay at the death of Phar Lap in 1932, the yearning to believe that the horse lived on somewhere, and the way that admiration for (worship of?) Phar Lap continued over several generations (the print was purchased in 1932 and framed or re-framed in 1957).

It has continuing possibilities for the interpretation of Phar Lap and his place in Australian legend.

It complements well the extensive collection of condolence letters written at the time of Phar Lap's death that were donated by the Telford family, and contributes further to our knowledge of the ways that Phar Lap was remembered and memorialised.

Copies of these prints are rare, and none have been offered to the Museum before, although we have borrowed the image from a private owner and used it in exhibitions and publications recently.

The image will have continuous potential use as we continue to interpret Phar Lap and his times. The delay between purchase and framing (or re-framing) testifies to the continuing popularity of Phar Lap over at least two generations.

In 1932 after Phar Lap's death, Tasmanian artist Joseph Luke Fleury painted a large mural, 12 foot long, and 6 foot wide, entitled Phar Lap before the chariot of the sun, and exhibited it at an art gallery in Sydney It does not appear that the original has survived.

Fleury specialised in church decoration, particularly in the Roman Catholic tradition. To commemorate Phar Lap, he deserted Biblical imagery for images from classical mythology. He drew on the widespread hope that Phar Lap lived on in some form, and the painting shows Phar Lap entering an afterlife.

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