This hand-coloured etching is after the painting, now in the Tate Britain (T06856), by the German artist Johan Zoffany, who made his fortune in England and was among the founding members of the Royal Academy of Arts. The painting was commissioned by Warren Hastings, the first British Governor-General of India, during Zoffany’s sojourn in the country in the 1780s.
The fight between two cocks is the main event in the crowded and lively scene of this Anglo-Indian pastime. The birds’ owners are depicted just behind the Indian handlers of the fighting cocks. On the left, the British colonel John Mordaunt is wearing a pale evening clothes and is standing with his arms open toward the cocks. His gaze meets Asaf-ud-Daula’s, the Indian governor of Awadh, on the right. All around them, several other activities are happening concurrently, such as the Indian girls dancing on the left of the scene. Both English and Indian notable figures of the time are represented in the painting, including the painter who portraited himself seated on the right under the canopy, dressed in pale evening wear with an arm resting on the chair holding a brush.