When the artist was commissioned to make a small figure of a wrestler in 1912, he went to a gym and made numerous preparatory sketches. He enjoyed the athletic qualities of the men there: 'large shoulders, taut enormous necks like bulls, small in build, firm thighs, slender ankles, feet as sensitive as hands and not tall but they fight with a fantastic vivacity and spirit.' Gaudier-Brzeska continued to make drawings of wrestlers in action during 1913 and 1914. These were more naturalistic than the stylised and elongated figures represented in this relief. The theme of wrestling or boxing was a popular one among avant-garde sculptors in the years just prior to the First World War.