This portrait of 19th century boxer Jem Wharton by Liverpool artist William Daniels is on display in the Museum of Liverpool’s The People’s Republic gallery as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s COMING HOME project.
The portrait is on display until 9 January 2022, 10am-6pm, Tuesday-Sunday.
James ‘Jem’ Wharton was one of the most successful boxers in Britain in the first half of the 19th century. He was popularly known as the ‘Young Molineaux’ after the famous American boxer of the preceding generation, Tom Molineaux.
Wharton’s early life remains uncertain; he described himself as a Moroccan who arrived in England in 1820 but his place of birth was recorded as London in the 1851 census. Winning his first bout in 1833, he retired undefeated in 1840. In later life, he worked as a trainer and promoter and ran a tavern in Liverpool.
This portrait by the Liverpool artist William Daniels presents Wharton at the height of his career. He is shown as if pausing during a training session with the ‘colours’ from his latest victory tied around his waist. It is an early depiction of a boxer wearing gloves. At this date, their use was generally reserved for training and they only became mandatory in professional fights with the adoption of the Queensbury Rules later in the century.