A Warrior Carrying a Wounded Youth from the Field of Battle was conceived by the artist in 1875 to compete for the Royal Academy’s biennial Gold Medal for the Best Work of Sculpture on a given theme. Thornycroft took part to the contest with Alfred Gilbert, eventually winning the prize. In 1894 the art critic Edmund Gosse defined such a competition as the ‘prologue’ to the English New Sculpture movement.
While the Royal Academicians set the theme for the piece, its treatment was left completely to the imagination of the young artists involved in the competition. Thornycroft’s composition was extremely indebted to his travels to France and Italy, and particularly to the sculptural norms of the Florentine Renaissance and to the ruins of Classical antiquity.
The iconography of the present piece is likely linked to the bas-relief of Trajan’s Column (Rome), which narrates the victory of the Roman emperor against the king Decebalus in the 1st Century AD.