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    1882 John L. Sullivan vs. Paddy Ryan Prize Fight Original Cabinet Photograph. It might be the most coveted boxing photograph in the pugilistic collecting subgenre, hoisted to that position upon the twin pillars of elite significance and extreme rarity. The latter is quite plainly a matter of public record--check any major auction results archive and you'll come up empty. Certainly we've never encountered another example, and we'd be willing to wager that the world's surviving population could be counted on a single hand with digits to spare.

    The designation of John L. Sullivan as the ultimate practitioner of the 19th century prize ring is likewise a matter of unwavering consensus. One could go so far as to consider him the first great American sports hero, a man whose fame and seeming invincibility established him as living folklore. Due to his enormous fame, studio portraits of Sullivan are fairly common and yet still highly prized by collectors today. But fight photography? That is boxiana's white whale.

    In point of fact, this image is actually a bit of sleight of hand. The photographic technology of the day was such that moving subjects were impossible to capture cleanly. So while the enraptured audience surrounding the makeshift ring in the yard outside Mississippi City's "Barnes' Hotel"--some watching from balconies and dangling from trees--remains unaltered, the fighters are effectively added post-production, a fact that does absolutely nothing to diminish the enormous appeal of an image that would have been literally impossible to create otherwise.

    It took nine rounds and approximately eleven minutes for the Boston Strong Boy to add Ryan to his long list of victims, bringing a brutal end to the contest with a thunderous right hand that left Ryan crumbled in the dirt.

    The image measures an unusually large (for its time) 10x13.5", with the mount, recounting the various details of the event, extending the dimensions to a visible area of 13x14". The frame, which appears to be original, measures approximately 16.5x18.5".

    A few small areas of emulsion loss will be apparent in our catalog imagery, but it will also be clear that these concerns are minor, particularly in light of the elite nature of the piece. This is very possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, one of the most exciting Sullivan artifacts ever to challenge a bidding audience.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2017
    16th-18th Thursday-Saturday
    Internet/Mail Bids: 7
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,410

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    20% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

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