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Thomas Eakins

Untitled (Male Nudes Boxing)

Lot Closed

April 13, 07:10 PM GMT


30,000 - 50,000 USD

Lot Details


Thomas Eakins

1844 - 1916

Untitled (Male Nudes Boxing)

albumen print, mounted to card, with Olympia Galleries’ notations in ink on the reverse, framed, circa 1883

image: 3 ¾ by 4 ¾ in. (9.5 by 12.1 cm.)

frame: 15 ¾ by 16 ¾ in. (40 by 42.5 cm.)

The photographer to Edward H. Coates, chairman of the Committee on Instruction at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, circa 1883-86

By descent through family

Collection of Joseph A. Seraphin, owner of Olympia Galleries, Ltd., 1974

Sotheby’s Parke Bernet, The Olympia Galleries Important Collection of Photographs by Thomas Eakins, 10 November 1977, Sale 4044B, Lot 506

Gordon Hendricks, The Photographs of Thomas Eakins (New York, 1972), fig. 124 (illustration of a modern enlargement in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, reversed)

Susan Danley and Cheryl Leibold, Eakins and the Photograph (Philadelphia, 1994), no. 399

Photographs by Thomas Eakins are exceptionally rare. No other period print of this image has been located. The glass plate negative is in the Charles Bregler's Thomas Eakins Collection at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1985.68.2.1025). The present photograph was acquired in 1977 in the now-legendary Sotheby Parke Bernet auction of Eakins photographs from the Olympia Galleries. The twenty-one photographs offered were given originally by Eakins to Edward H. Coates, an important member of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, during the artist’s tenure with the institution. Buyers in the auction represented a who’s who of early collecting, including Seiden & Cuevas (photographs now at Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum) and Sam Wagstaff (photographs now at the J. Paul Getty Museum). The dealer James Maroney paid an unheard of $11,000 for Three Female Nudes, a record for any photograph at auction. 

While Eakins had long been interested in athletic subjects, the present early photograph – of pugilists dynamically sparring in the grass and surrounded by languid youths – predates his celebrated later paintings of prizefighters, such as Taking the Count (1898, Yale University Art Gallery), Salutat (1898, Addison Gallery of American Art), Wrestlers (1899, Los Angeles County Museum of Art), and Between Rounds (1899, Philadelphia Museum of Art). Eakins picked up the camera in 1880 in order to make preparatory studies for his own paintings as well as using it as a controversial teaching tool in his work at the Academy, where he encouraged his students’ study of the human form through both in-person and photographic observation.