A Young Boy by British artist Walter Stephens Lethbridge (circa 1771-1831) is among the highlights on offer at Bonhams
Fine Miniature Portraits auction on 21st November. Estimated to attract £3,000-5,000, this oval portrait on ivory is framed by a gilt-metal mount and measures 128mm (5 1/16in) in height.
Far from sporting the now-familiar cricketing whites, this young player wears beige breeches, a white frilly collar, a navy blue jacket, and black shoes. But the cricket bat in his right hand and the ball in his left make his practice clear. Framed by two trees, the boy stands on the lawn before a house and stables. He gazes to the left and lifts the ball in jest: Whos turn is it to bowl?
As early as 1301, Prince Edward, son of Edward 'Longshanks' I, played a game called 'creag' (an early form of cricket) at Newenden, Kent; in 1598, a court case mentions children playing 'creckett' on a plot of land at the Royal Grammar School at Guildford, Surrey as early as c.1550. By c.1610, cricket was acknowledged as an adult sport, and soon afterwards it was regarded as a common inter-parish and village game.
By 1800, cricket was a fully fledged sporting activity in all public and most grammar schools. It wasnt only the games encouragement of physical exercise and sportsmanship that made it attractivecricket was considered a healthy distraction, a way to keep boys out of mischief. Thats not to say that Lethbridges lad looks like the type who needs to be tamed!
By the early 1830s, cricket had become a social highlight. The main public schools such as Charterhouse, Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Westminster and Winchester took great pride in their cricketing prowess. In the Napoleonic period, prominent old boys amateurs included Etonians E. H. Budd, John Kirwan and Herbert Jenner, Harrow's Edward Grimston, Charles Harenc and Charles Wordsworth, and Wykehamists William Meyrick and William Ward. Schools Shrewsbury, Tonbridge and Whitgift, and colleges Cheltenham, Malvern and Marlborough, were also noted for their cricketing abilities during the 19th century.