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Boxing Print, Tom Cribb, Champion of England, Prizefighter Portrait, London: 1842

$975

John Jackson, R.A. (1778-1831)
George Hunt (engraver)
Tom Cribb, Champion of England
J. Moore, London: May 10, 1842
Hand-colored aquatint
15 x 11.75 inches, image
18.5 x 15 inches, plate mark
22 x 18.5inches, overall
$975

Portrait engraving of Tom Cribb (1781-1848), an English bare-knuckle prizefighter. Cribb held the championship for 13 years and defeated the first challengers from the newly formed United States, including a former slave. Text in the lower margin gives his height and weight. It also includes a list of bouts between 1805 and 1811 — 10 wins and 1 loss — naming opponents, locations, dates and purses. Some of these bouts were harsh endurance contests, typical of this period, including his first recorded fight in 1805 against George Maddox, which lasted over two hours. Most opponents are identified on the print by their surnames, except for one with the colorful nickname of “Ikey-Pig.” Notable bouts listed on the print include the 1807 match against former champion Jem Belcher, which Cribb came close to losing until his second stalled for time to give him a chance to regain his energy and he landed a blow closing Belcher’s one good eye. He prevailed easily against Belcher in a rematch in 1809. Also listed are the two hard-fought bouts toward the end of his career against Tom Molineaux, a former American slave and the first black man to fight for a championship. Other examples of this print are in the collections of the British Sporting Art Trust and the Yale University Library.

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Description

This print is credited lower left to “J. Jackson, R.A.” The image, however, is strikingly similar to an earlier mezzotint in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, dated 1811 and engraved by John Young after a work by Thomas Douglas Guest (1781-c. 1839). It may be posited that this earlier print was the source of the image for Jackson.

Bare-knuckle boxing was a popular sport from the late 18th to mid 19th century, somewhat akin to the early days of today’s Ultimate Fighting Championship — there were few rules, no gloves, no set length to rounds, and wrestling was allowed, although head-butting was not permitted.

In addition to his long reign as English champion, Tom Cribb is distinguished in boxing history as one of the first fighters to actually train for bouts. Cribb worked on the wharves of London before becoming a prizefighter. After defeating Tom Molineaux for the second time in 1811, he retired, except for a comeback victory over Jack Carter in 1820. Thereafter he worked as owner of a public house and as a coal merchant. Cribb was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.

John Jackson was a painter, designer and watercolorist, one of the notable British portraitists of his generation. Born in Yorkshire, as a young man he obtained the patronage of aristocrats for whom he made portrait drawings, and who gave him permission to copy the master paintings in their collections. One of these mentors, Sir George Beaumont, arranged for him to study in London, where he was admitted as a student to the Royal Academy, eventually becoming a full member in 1817, and taking part in their exhibitions until 1830. Jackson is known as a brilliant colorist with a gift for creating a likeness. His works are in major British museums including the National Gallery of England, the Tate, the National Portrait Gallery in London, and the British Museum.

George Hunt was a British engraver, active in London, c. 1820s to 1840s. He produced humorous engravings after the work of M. Egerton for the publisher Thomas McLean.

Full publication information: London, Published May 10th, 1842. By J. Moore, at 1 & 2 West Street. Up’r St. Martins Lane.

Condition: Generally very good, recently professionally cleaned and deacidified, with only minor remaining toning, wear, soft creases. Possibly a later strike, though still relatively early (19th Century); overall a good impression with rich aquatint details and color.

References:

Roberts, James B. and Alexander G. Skutt. The Boxing Register. McBooks Press, 1999. Online at International Boxing Hall of Fame: http://www.ibhof.com/pages/about/inductees/pioneer/cribb.html (24 May 2012).

Studeny, Richard. “Nottinghamshire Legends: Bendigo.” BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/nottingham/content/articles/2005/02/14/features_people_2005_02_bendigo_and_forest_tavern_feature.shtml (17 May 2012).

“The Baker Collection of Books.” The University of Sussex Special Collections Library. (Re: George Hunt.) http://www.sussex.ac.uk/library/speccoll/collection_catalogues/baker.html (25 January 2005).

“Tom Cribb.” British Sporting Art Trust. 2012. http://www.bsat.co.uk/artists.php?aid=62 (24 May 2012).

“Tom Cribb.” National Portrait Gallery. http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw149288/Tom-Cribb (24 May 2012).

Additional information

Century

19th Century