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Thomas Rowlandson, 1756–1827, British

The Prize Fight

Watercolor with pen and black and gray ink over graphite on moderately thick, moderately textured, beige, laid paper
Sheet: 18 1/8 x 27 3/8 inches (46 x 69.5 cm) and Frame: 29 3/4 x 36 1/4 x 1 1/8 inches (75.6 x 92.1 x 2.9 cm)

Signed and dated in black ink, lower left: "T. Rowlandson 1787"

J. Whatman - Fig. 197 in shorter "James Whatman II 1764 - 93, page 337.

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
boxes (containers) | canes | carriages | collar | crowd | dogs (animals) | fighting | horses (animals) | men | platform | poles | prize | ring | sporting art | trees | wagons | women
Accessible by request in the Study Room [Request]
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IIIF Manifest:

Sports of varying degrees of brutality and gentility flourished during the eighteenth century. Boxing, hitherto an unregulated and amateur sport, became professionalized and commercialized. John Broughton, the most celebrated pugilist of the day, drew up rules which were introduced on August 16, 1743, and were enforced until 1838, when they were superseded by the London Prize Ring Rules. In 1747 Broughton opened an academy in London where gloves were worn for the first time. The Subject of Rowlandson's ambitious watercolor has never been identified conclusively, but it may commemorate the celebrated fight Richard Humphries (the "Gentleman Boxer") and Samuel Martin which took place at Newmarket on May 3, 1786. The contest was attended by several hundred people, including members of the English and French nobility. The London Chronicle reported that "the long contended battle between Martin, the Bath Butcher, and the famous Humphries…lasted about and hour and a half, when the latter beat the former in a terrible manner; upwards of 4000:1 were won and lost on the occasion."

Gillian Forrester

Wilcox, Forrester, O'Neil, Sloan. The Line of Beauty: British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001. pg. 108 cat. no. 89

British Art at Yale, Apollo, v.105, no. 182, April 1977, pp. 279-80, fig. 6, N5220 M552 A7 1977 OVERSIZE (YCBA) Published as April 1977 issue of Apollo; all of the articles may also be found in bound Apollo Volume [N1 A54 105:2 +]

John T. Hayes, Rowlandson : watercolours and drawings, Phaidon, London, 1972, pp. 40, 100, no. 37, pl. 37, NJ18 R79 H39 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Robert Hoozee, British vision : observation and imagination in British art, 1750-1950, , Mercatorfonds Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Brussels , Ghent, 2007, pp. 118, 119, no. 51, fig. 51, N6767 B78 2007 + OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Patricia Phagan, Thomas Rowlandson, pleasures and pursuits in Georgian England , Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Poughkeepsie, N.Y. London, 2011, pp.34,125,130-31, no. 45, NJ18 R79 P53 2011 + OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Simon Schama, Rowlandson in the Round, TLS, the Times Literary Supplement, Issue no. 3963, March 10, 1978, p. 282, Film S748 (SML) Also available Online in TLS Historical Archive (ORBIS)

The Cunning Eye of Thomas Rowlandson, Apollo, vol.105, no. 182, April 1977, pp. 279-80, fig. 6, N1 A54 05:2 + (YCBA) Also available: N5220 M552 A7 1977 + (YCBA)

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