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Today cock fighting is about as politically incorrect as you can get, but the subject seems to have inspired a number of 19th and early 20th century works of art, of which this is a notable example. Pictures of it are hard to come by and often of low-resolution, so I was very pleased when I managed to discover some bigger ones.
For a long time the only information I could find about the statue was from the book, Art Deco and Other Figures by Bryan Catley (Antique Collector’s Club, 1978, ISBN 0 902028 57 X), which simply identified the piece as by “S. Debry” and had no accompanying biographical data. Fortunately I recently discovered the following information from a now-deleted page on an art site:
Magnificent antique bronze of "the cockfight" (sic) by Sophie-Victoire Debry, a French female sculptor. The work was exhibited in the Paris Salons of 1920 and she received an honorable mention for it. It is signed by the artist, dated 1920 and has the foundry mark on it. The marble base is 62.5 cm x 28 cm. The total height is 41 cm.
I hope I won’t be considered sexist for saying how surprised I was to find a woman excelling at what I’d long regarded as an exclusively male profession.
Other works inspired by cock fighting include Jean Léon Gérôme’s painting Le Combat de Coq (The Cockfight) and Jean-Alexandre Falguière’s statue The Winner of the Cockfight. Of course all of these works downplay the inherent violence of cock fighting, and instead concentrate on the pretty bodies of the birds’ owners.
The boys’ poses in the two works are so similar that it is tempting to think the painting inspired the statue. I’ve also read a suggestion that the boy in Gérôme’s Cockfight was inspired by the pose of Antoine-Denis Chaudet’s Cupid. Interesting to think that a statue may have inspired a painting that inspired a statue. What goes around....
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