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John Hamilton Mortimer, 1740–1779

John Broughton [2022, YCBA]

Former Title(s):

Jack Broughton, the Boxer

Mr. Broughton [1767, Society of Artists, exhibition catalogue]

ca. 1767
Materials & Techniques:
Oil on canvas
30 x 25 inches (76.2 x 63.5 cm), Frame: 36 3/4 × 31 5/8 × 2 3/4 inches (93.3 × 80.3 × 7 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
boxer | boxing | buckles | column (architectural element) | fighting | genre subject | man | marble | portrait | relief sculpture | stockings
Associated People:
Broughton, John (c.1703–1789), pugilist
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

John “Jack” Broughton (1704–1789), who began his working life as a ferryman on the Thames, was Britain’s most successful bare-knuckle boxer. Such was his fame that the sculptor Michael Rysbrack (1694–1770) modeled the arms of his statue of Hercules on Broughton’s muscular limbs.

The carved relief visible behind Broughton is based on The Wrestlers, a Roman statue (after a Greek original of the third century bce) now in the collection of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Mortimer sought to confer an ancient authority on his painting and legitimize the modern form of boxing Broughton practiced by linking the boxer’s body to the art of antiquity. However, Broughton’s rules for boxing, which he codified in 1743, aimed to distance the nascent sport from wrestling by emphasizing an upright stance and banning holds below the waist. The shadow Broughton’s body casts over the relief may be a subtle reference to this new form of fighting that eclipses the old.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2022
Created by John Hamilton Mortimer (1740-1779), the artist [1]; …; acquired by George Augustus Herbert, eleventh Earl of Pembroke and eighth Earl of Montgomery (1759-1827), Wilton House, Wiltshire, by 1822 [a]; by descent to Robert Herbert, twelfth Earl of Pembroke and ninth Earl of Montgomery (1791-1862); by descent to his half nephew, George Robert Charles Herbert, thirteenth Earl of Pembroke and tenth Earl of Montgomery (1850-1895); by descent to his brother, Sidney Herbert, fourteenth Earl of Pembroke and eleventh Earl of Montgomery (1853-1913); by descent to his son, Reginald Herbert, fifteenth Earl of Pembroke and twelfth Earl of Montgomery (1880-1960); purchased at auction by M. Bernard Gallery, 21 Ryder Street, London at Christie, Manson & Wood, London, England, June 22, 1951 (lot 30, 1 of 3) in "Pictures by old masters; ancient and modern pictures and drawings" [b]; … ; purchased at auction by Paul Mellon (1907-1999) at The Incurable Collector Gallery, 36 East 57th Street, New York, May 15, 1963 (lot 76); by whom given to the Yale Center for British Art, 1981.

[1] First exhibited May 1767, Great Piazza Covent Garden, probably at the exhibition of the Free Society of Artists. See "Critical Remarks on the Paintings Recently Exhibited," The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle 37 (1767): 240.

[a] Neale, J.P. "Wilton House," in Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, vol. 5 (London: Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, 1822), https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/orbis:3212538
[b] Christie, Manson & Wood. June 22, 1951. Pictures by old masters; ancient and modern pictures and drawings. https://worldcat.org/en/title/171345486

Hogarth, Reynolds, Turner: British Painting and the Rise of Modernity (Fondazione Roma Museo - Palazzo Sciarra, 2014-04-14 - 2014-07-20) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Pursuit of Happiness - A View of Life in Georgian England (Yale Center for British Art, 1977-04-19 - 1977-09-18) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Robert Colls, This sporting life : sport and liberty in England, 1760-1960, Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K., 2020, pp. 85, 370, GV706.35 .C65 2020 (LC) YCBA [ORBIS]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 164-165, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Judy Egerton, British Sporting and Animal Paintings 1655-1867 : A Catalogue : The Paul Mellon Collection, , Tate Publishing, London, 1978, pp. 130-131, no. 126, ND1383 G7 B75 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Free Society of Artists, A catalogue of the paintings, sculptures, architecture, models, drawings, &c. now exhibiting by the Free Society of Artists, associated for the relief of their distressed and decayed brethren. . ., Accessed June 8, 2023, p. 12, no. 211, Eighteenth Century Collections Online [ORBIS]

On the Performances of the Artists exhibited in Pall Mall. . ., Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Chronicle, vol. 37, Accessed June 8, 2023, p. 240, British Periodicals Collection [ORBIS]

J. H. Plumb, The pursuit of happiness : a view of life in Georgian England : an exhibition selected from the Paul Mellon collection, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1977, pp. 64, 132, no. 154, N6766 Y34 1977 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Skira editore, Hogarth Reynolds Turner : British painting and the rise of modernity, Rome, 2014, p. 156, 272, cat. no. 17, fig. 17, ND466 .H65 2014 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

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