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Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match

Johan Zoffany, c. 1784-86
Collection: 
Tate, London

 

Griselda Pollock addresses issues of colonialism and gender in Zoffany’s Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match :

“Zoffany’s painting visualizes this created [sexual] ‘difference’ on the formal level by clear demarcation of the lean, taut, stable, unadorned masculine body of the British officer, John Mordaunt, and the kinetic excess of the draped, sizable, and demonstrative Nawab, whose artistic connoisseurship and cultural patronage is erased in this double move of orientalizing feminization. The Nawab’s considerable girth is swathed in flowing garments of a soft and transparent fabric that swirl awkwardly at the groin in a manner too pointed and too unnatural to be ignored.”…

“A final look at the painting done for Warren Hastings reveals that the whole image begins to tilt so that we might also read a creation of an inner stage, on which the central figures of power, the Nawab and his advisors, encounter the military and civilian personnel of the growing British settlement while the Indian community as a whole is reduced to passive spectatorship, exotic decoration, entertainment, and sex, and positioned as lowly, reminiscent of the unruly mob elements of the Hogarthian crowd. The more one contemplates the order that underpins the apparent dynamism of the painting, the more the organizing power of the military red jacket and the simple white undergarments combined with Zoffany’s skilled portraiture establishes the dominance of the inner space of power by the Europeans leaving the impressive Nawab a diminished figure, paling at its center.”

Griselda Pollock, “Cockfights and Other Parades: Gesture, Difference, and the Staging of Meaning in Three Paintings by Zoffany, Pollock, and Krasner,” Oxford Art Journal, vol. 26, no. 2 (2003): 156-7, 159.

About the Artist

Born: near Frankfut-am-Main, 13 March 1733
Died: Strand-on-the-Green (near Kew), London, 11 November 1810
Nationality: German