Oil on paper laid onto canvas on a simple stretcher.
Dating to the early 19th century, before the final outlawing of the practice in 1835. See below.
Unsigned but very similar in composition to paintings by popular artists, Edmund Bristol, Samuel Henry Alken and James Walker, all active in the early 19th century.
Frame: 19.5” 50cm x 16” 40cm
Sight: 16” 40cm x 12.5” 32cm
Although an anathema to most modern sensibilities, we must accept that bull baiting has a long and international history, and is still practiced in some areas of the world.
In England bull baiting was not only practiced as a form of recreation, but there existed a "long-held belief" that baiting improved the meat quality and tenderness when consumed. However by the early nineteenth century, the sport began to die out, both because the baiting caused a public nuisance and because of new concerns about animal cruelty.
A Bill for the suppression of the practice was introduced into the House of Commons in 1802, but was defeated by thirteen votes. It was not finally outlawed until parliament passed the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835, which forbade the keeping of any house, pit, or other place for baiting or fighting any bull, bear, dog, or other animal.
Bull-baiting dogs, including Old English Bulldogs, Bullenbeissers, Spanish Bulldogs, Ca de Bous and bull and terriers, were bred to bait animals, mainly bulls and bears. During bull-baiting the dog would attempt to flatten itself to the ground, creeping as close to the bull as possible, then darting out and attempting to bite the bull in the nose or head area. The bull would often be tethered by a collar and rope which was staked into the ground. As the dog darted at the bull, the bull would attempt to catch the dog with his head and horns and throw it into the air.
In 1835, the Cruelty to Animals Act was passed in Parliament that outlawed "Blood Sport" in the United Kingdom. The bulldog's work was suddenly over and the bulldog rapidly started dying out. Around 1865 dog fanciers began developing dog clubs which eventually culminated into conformation shows. Many fanciers utilized various remnants of the dog utilized for "Blood Sport" to resurrect the "Bull" dog and ultimately developed today's modern English bulldog.