Prize Fighter, Enzo Fiermonte, (1931) by Mahonri Young
Prize Fighter, Enzo Fiermonte, (1931) by Mahonri Young
Prize Fighter, Enzo Fiermonte, (1931) by Mahonri Young
Prize Fighter, Enzo Fiermonte, (1931) by Mahonri Young
Prize Fighter, Enzo Fiermonte, (1931) by Mahonri Young
Prize Fighter, Enzo Fiermonte, (1931) by Mahonri Young
Prize Fighter, Enzo Fiermonte, (1931) by Mahonri Young
Prize Fighter, Enzo Fiermonte, (1931) by Mahonri Young
Prize Fighter, Enzo Fiermonte, (1931) by Mahonri Young

Prize Fighter, Enzo Fiermonte, (1931) by Mahonri Young

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Mahonri Mackintosh Young (Utah, 1877-1957)

Mahonri Young was born in Salt Lake City in 1877. He was the grandson of the prominent Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leader, Brigham Young. Mahonri lived in New York, Utah, Connecticut, and Paris. He received art instruction from J. T. Harwood and studied at the Art Students League of New York and Julian, Delacluse, and the Colarossi Académies. He is known as one of Utah's most famous New York based artist. He worked in bronze, watercolor, oil, and etching. 

Mahonri was commissioned by the American Museum of Natural History to sculpt life-size groups of Native Americans. He was notably commissioned by the LDS Church to create the Seagull monument for Salt Lake City's Temple Square.

His interest turned to portrayals of working men and people engaged in strenuous activity. Increasingly fascinated by the drama and energy of the boxing match, he came to be identified more closely with such pieces as Right to the Jaw (Brooklyn Museum) than with any other genre. At the 1932 Olympic art exhibit he was awarded first prize for his sculpture titled The Knockdown. Young was one of several prominent American artists to become famous for his boxing images. George Bellows (1882-1925) and George Luks (1867-1923 also rose to prominence with their depictions of amateur and prize fights. All three had a similar lineage as students of Robert Henri (1865-1929) at the Arts Students' League in New York. Henri was a founding member of the Ashcan School philosophy, which aspired to apply academic skills to paint prosaic, even dirty, subjects.

Perhaps the most eloquent tribute paid to him was that stated by his old friend Jack Sears, "Mahonri Young is made of the stuff which distinguished Barye, Daumier, Millet...yet, he is an individual, sincere, a man with a splendid, well-balanced mind. A great draftsman with a sound and large view of life and well-trained vision. I have walked with him, worked with him, lived with him and I know he could do more things better than any living man today." Sears later remarked, "There is no more effective way to recognize the distinction of Young's genius than by imagining American art without his work" (edited entry from the Dictionary of Utah Art [1980]). 

This work depicts the boxer and film star Enzo Fiermonte and was made by Mahonri at the height of his career; just as he transitioned from winning awards in Paris to being at the center of New York society.
From 1825 to 1934, Fiermonte was a professional boxer, famous both in Europe and America for his speed and good looks. In 1935, he married Madeliene Aster—widow of John Jacob Astor VI, who died on the Titanic. By the 1940s, Enzo was an international film star. He acted under the name of “William Bird” in more than 100 movies, including Quo Vadis (1951) and Ben Hur (1959).
According to Mahonri’s biographer, the industrialist Reginald Newton commissioned the statue of Fiermonte:
“…Mahonri had been working on a statuette of the Italian boxer, Enzo Fiermonte; and at the end of June, 1931, Newton ordered both a bronze and a plaster casting of the piece. A year later, the plaster was finished and brought to Young’s New York studio. To celebrate, Newton took Young to Philadelphia to see the Tommy Loughran-Steve Hamas match . . . In the summer of 1932, Mahonri submitted eight boxing sculptures to the Summer Olympic games held in Los Angeles: Joe Gans, Da Winnah!, Right to the Jaw, Groggy, Bob Fitzsimmons, Bantams, On the Button, and The Knockdown. The latter received the gold medal for sculpture.” (Norma S. Davis. A Song of Joys: The Biography of Mahonri Mackintosh Young. Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1999, p. 201)

There are two other known versions of the sculpture, one in a private collection and the other owned by the National Park Service and on deposit at the Weir Family Farm.

Bronze. 2, Stamped “Roman Bronze Works N.Y.” Signed “Mahonri No 2.” Weir Farm National Historical Park
15.25 x 9.25 x 27.5 in.

 

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