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Artist: Thomas Eakins
Artist Dates: (Philadelphia, PA, Jul 25, 1844 - Jun 25, 1916, Philadelphia, PA)
Title: Salutat
Date: 1898
Dimensions: 50 in. x 40 in. (127 cm x 101.6 cm)
Medium: oil on canvas
Credit Line: gift of anonymous donor
Accession#: 1930.18
Location: On view in Gallery 103

This object is a member of the following groups (click any group name to view all objects in that group):

Exhibitions: Exterior Spaces, Interior Places
Themes: Gender

Object Information

Late in the 1890s, Thomas Eakins returned to the theme of sport and male athleticism in his paintings. But whereas in the 1870s he had portrayed rowers, baseball players, and hunters who competed in the outdoors, Eakins now turned his attention to local boxers, who fought in shabby, smoke-filled arenas and gymnasiums in inner-city Philadelphia. Together with Samuel Murray and other friends, Eakins frequented the prizefights held at the Arena at Broad and Cherry Streets, diagonally across from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.1

Salutat, of 1898, is the third of three boxing paintings that Eakins produced during 1898-99: the others are Taking the Count of the same year (Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut) and Between Rounds, started earlier than Salutat but not completed until 1899 (Philadelphia Museum of Art).2 Salutat is a portrait of the featherweight "Turkey Point" Billy Smith, who is shown pausing to acknowledge the applause of the all-male audience as he exits the arena with trainers in tow. Smith was one of several fighters whom Eakins had befriended and who agreed to model for him. Eakins conveyed his own affection for boxing indirectly by depicting close friends and relatives among the cheering fans, most notably his father, Benjamin Eakins, who stands in the background at the extreme right.3

The full title of the painting, Dextra victrice: Conclamantes Salutat (With his right hand the victor salutes those acclaiming him), which was carved into the original frame (now lost), relates Eakins's composition to ancient gladiatorial contests and more directly to the paintings of gladiators popularized by his teacher Jean-Léon Gérôme. Indeed, Eakins's composition and its title echo Gérôme's renowned canvas of 1859, Ave Caesar! Morituri Te Salutant (Hail Caesar! We who are about to die salute you) (Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut), which Eakins had seen when a student in Paris.4

By alluding to the classical past, Eakins countered the ambiguous status of boxing in American sports at this time. On the one hand, prizefighting was neither respectable nor fully legal, and promoters often had to move fights at the last minute to avoid the police. On the other hand, the 1890s saw the increasing popularity of physical culture, especially among male members of the upper classes eager to combat the ennervating atmosphere of the modern corporate workplace. Chief among the exponents of the "strenuous life" was Theodore Roosevelt, who disliked prizefighting but regarded boxing—"the sweet science"—as an acceptable and suitably masculine form of exercise and civilized combat.5

Boxing and wrestling provided Eakins with an indisputably masculine subject matter, one that also permitted the portrayal of the seminude athlete. But whereas younger artists such as George Bellows would later depict the violent action of the ring, Eakins chose moments of pause for his trio of canvases, creating a troubling tension between the peacefulness of the painted image and the physical violence of the sport. Though Salutat is ostensibly the portrait of a victor, there is a somber irony to the gesture of the near-naked Billy Smith and the bowed heads of his trainers. By showing the boxer from the back in hidden profile, Eakins downplays his individuality. The fighter becomes an emblem of vulnerability in a dangerous world. "He is limited not only to precise time periods, but also to a carefully measured space in which to act," Carl Smith has written, "and he must confront the fists and body of an opponent. His sport involves physical punishment—even danger and possibly death. It is, after all, a fight, Eakins's deemphasis of violence notwithstanding.”6

Elizabeth Milroy, Addison Gallery of American Art: 65 Years, A Selective Catalogue (Andover, Massachusetts: Addison Gallery of American Art, 1996), pp. 365-66


1. See Carl Smith, "The Boxing Paintings of Thomas Eakins," Prospects: The Annual of American Cultural Studies 4 (1979), pp. 402-19; and Michael Hatt, "Muscles, Morals and Mind: The Male Body in Thomas Eakins' Salutat," in The Body Imaged, ed. Kathleen Adler and Marcia Pointon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 57-69, 194-95.

2. Also in 1899, Eakins painted Wrestlers (Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio). See Lloyd Goodrich, Thomas Eakins, vol. 2 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1983), pp. 144-59.

3. The men in the front row include Louis Kenton (Eakins's brother-in-law), Clarence Cranmer, David Wilson Jordan, Louis Husson, and Samuel Murray. The identifications were made by Susan Eakins in a letter to Charles Sawyer, 23 January 1934, Addison Gallery Archives.

4. The frame was already lost when Lloyd Goodrich published his first monograph on Eakins; see Goodrich, Thomas Eakins, His Life and Work (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1933), p. 189. Eakins usually exhibited the painting with the short title Salutat; in 1902 he exhibited it as Conclamantes Salutat at the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts, and showed it only once with the full title, at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. While the title of Gérôme's painting was derived from the well-documented salute of the gladiators to the emperor at the start of combat (described by Suetonius), the origin of Eakins's title is unknown. No such invocation has been found in classical literature. For a discussion of procedure in the arena, see Michael Grant, Gladiators (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967), pp. 63-78.

5. See Smith, pp. 405, 412-13; and Hatt, pp. 58-62.

6. Smith, p. 411.

Exhibition History

This object was included in the following exhibitions:

Opening Exhibition of the Lyman Allyn Museum, Lyman Allyn Art Museum, 3/3/1932 - 4/10/1932
A Loan Exhibition of 19th Century Paintings from the Addison Gallery of American, Whitney Museum of American Art, 3/28/1933 - 4/27/1933
A Century of American Painting, The Museum of Modern Art Gallery of Washington, 3/7/1939 - 4/2/1939
Survey of American Painting, Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, 10/24/1940 - 12/15/1940
Boxing and Wrestling In Art, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, 9/1/1943 - 9/30/1943
Thomas Eakins Centennial Exhibition, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 4/8/1944 - 5/14/1944
A Loan Exhibition of the Works of Thomas Eakins, 1844-1944, M. Knoedler and Co., Inc., 6/5/1944 - 7/31/1944
Sport in American Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 10/10/1944 - 12/10/1944
Thomas Eakins Centennial Exhibition, 1844-1944, Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, 4/26/1945 - 6/1/1945
200 Years of American Painting: Assembled for the State Fair of Texas, Dallas Museum of Art, 10/5/1946 - 11/4/1946
Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute Museum of Art, 12/1/1946 - 1/19/1947
Sport and Adventure in American Art, Milwaukee Art Institute, 2/15/1947 - 3/30/1947
Thomas Eakins Exhibition, Currier Museum of Art, 5/15/1947 - 6/30/1947
The Ring and the Glove, Museum of the City of New York, 11/19/1947 - 4/4/1948
American Painting: 3 centuries : a loan exhibition, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, 4/3/1949 - 4/24/1949
Amerika Schildert [America Paints], Stedelijk Museum, 6/16/1950 - 9/10/1950
Sport and Circus, University of Michigan Museum of Art, 11/9/1950 - 11/29/1950
Life in America, Denver Art Museum, 3/4/1951 - 4/30/1951
Amerikanische Malerei: Werden und Gegenwart, American Federation of Arts, 9/20/1951 - 10/5/1951
Exhibition of Paintings from The Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass, Western Canada Art Circuit, 11/15/1953 - 6/3/1954
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 150th Anniversary Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1/15/1955 - 3/13/1955
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 150th Anniversary Exhibition-European, United States Information Agency, 4/21/1955 - 11/15/1955
Seventy-Five Years of American Painting (Festival of American Arts), Brooks Memorial Union, Marquette University, 4/22/1956 - 5/3/1956
Vassar College Exhibition, Vassar College, 5/1/1957 - 5/27/1957
Of Other Days: Scenes of Everyday Life, The Newark Museum, 6/6/1957 - 9/30/1957
American Classics of the Nineteenth Century, Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, 10/17/1957 - 6/25/1958
A Hundred Years Ago [American genre painting, ca. 1835-1885], American Federation of Arts, 11/2/1958 - 11/24/1959
American National Exhibition in Moscow, United States Information Agency, 7/25/1959 - 9/4/1959
American Painting, 1865-1905, The Art Gallery of Toronto, 1/5/1961 - 6/18/1961
Thomas Eakins, A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Art, 10/8/1961 - 3/18/1962
Masterpieces of Art, Seattle World's Fair, 4/21/1962 - 9/4/1962
Man: Glory, Jest and Riddle, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, 11/10/1964 - 1/3/1965
Selections from the Addison Gallery of American Art, William Crapo Gallery, 10/27/1965 - 11/23/1965
Paintings by American Masters: Fifth Anniversary Exhibition, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, 9/14/1966 - 10/19/1966
The Artist and the Sportsman, The National Art Museum of Sport, 4/18/1968 - 6/16/1968
The Works, Addison Gallery of American Art, 11/7/1969 - 2/22/1970
Thomas Eakins Retrospective, Whitney Museum of American Art, 9/21/1970 - 11/29/1970
American Narrative Painting, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 10/1/1974 - 11/17/1974
Three Centuries of the American Nude, The New York Cultural Center in Association with Fairleigh Dickson University, 5/7/1975 - 7/13/1975
Turn-of-the-Century America: Paintings, Graphics, Photographs, 1890-1910, Whitney Museum of American Art, 6/29/1977 - 5/28/1978
Winslow Homer, Albert P. Ryder, Thomas Eakins, Addison Gallery of American Art, 12/12/1980 - 1/4/1980
Masterworks from the Collection: 50th Anniversary Exhibition, Addison Gallery of American Art, 5/9/1981 - 6/14/1981
Masterworks of American Art from the Addison Gallery Collection, Hirschl and Adler Galleries, Inc., 10/6/1981 - 10/31/1981
Thomas Eakins: Artist of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 5/29/1982 - 8/4/1982
At Work and Play: Selections from the Permanent Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 5/15/1987 - 7/31/1987
Raymond Saunders: Addison Delectations, Addison Gallery of American Art, 2/19/1988 - 3/20/1988
Boys and Girls, Men and Women, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/12/1990 - 6/10/1990
Sport in Art from American Museums, The National Art Museum of Sport, 1/4/1991 - 3/28/1992
Faces of the Addison: Portraits from the Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/23/1994 - 7/31/1994
Andover Alumni Collectors, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/29/1995 - 7/30/1995
Addison Gallery of American Art: 65 Years, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/13/1996 - 7/31/1996
Rings: Five Passions in World Art, High Museum of Art, 7/4/1996 - 9/29/1996
Walker Hancock, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/6/1997 - 2/8/1997
Sculpture in Context, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/17/1999 - 7/31/1999
Masterworks from the Permanent Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 2/22/2000 - 3/26/2000
Foundations: Building the Addison Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/12/2001 - 4/1/2001
Explorations, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/7/2001 - 7/31/2001
Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), Philadelphia Museum of Art, 9/30/2001 - 9/15/2002
Conversations: A Collection in Dialogue, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/7/2003 - 7/31/2003
Art, Artists, and the Addison: Building a Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 3/30/2004 - 7/31/2004
Eye on the Collection: Copley to Hopper, Addison Gallery of American Art, 12/21/2004 - 6/12/2005
Eye on the Collection: West to Hopper, Addison Gallery of American Art, 6/17/2005 - 10/16/2005
75 Years of Giving, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/11/2006 - 7/31/2006
Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s to 1950s, American Federation of Arts, 9/9/2006 - 9/7/2009
Mix and Match: A Conversation between Paintings and Works on Paper, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/23/2007 - 4/8/2007
So Long, Farewell, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/7/2007 - 7/31/2007
Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 7/25/2010 - 10/17/2010
Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 10/30/2010 - 2/13/2011
Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, Brooklyn Museum, 11/18/2011 - 6/10/2012
Eye on the Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 1/19/2013 - 3/10/2013
Eye on the Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/27/2013 - 7/31/2013
Exterior Spaces, Interior Places, Addison Gallery of American Art, 9/2/2014 - 1/4/2015

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