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A Series Of Etchings By James Barry, Esq. From His Original And Justly Celebrated Paintings, In The Great Room Of The Society Of Arts, Manufactures, And Commerce, Adelphi.

James Barry RA source artist engraver

RA Collection: Book

Record number



James Barry RA, source artist, engraver


London:: Printed By W. Bulmer And Co. Cleveland-Row, St. James's; Sold By Colnaghi, Printseller, Cockspur-Street, And By All The Principal Printsellers In London. The Members Of The Society Of Arts, Manufactures, And Commerce, may Be Accommodated With Copies At Their Rooms, Adelphi. Price Five Guineas stitched, and Six Guineas neatly Bound., 1808.

Physical Description

[14], 2, [2] p., 16 pl. (incl. 10 dble., 1 fold.); 662 mm.

General Note

The dble. pl. are nos [3, 6, 7-12, 15, 16]; the fold. pl. is no. [14]. The first six pl. carry engraved numbers as follows: [1], '1st'; [2], '3rd'; [3], '4th'; [4], '5th'; [5], '7th'; [6], '8th'. These engraved numbers are explained in the caption of plate [13], which shows sketches for two paintings which would have formed the '2nd' and '6th' of the full sequence of paintings.


[T.p.] - General Subject Of The Prints - [Plates 1-6, with text] - [Note, 'Five of the prints which follow ...'] - [Plates 7-16].

Responsibility Note

Plates [1-6] and plate [13] (showing two projected paintings for the set) are all signed as painted, engraved and published by James Barry R.A. Professor of Painting to the Royal Academy, and dated 1791. Plates [7-12], showing enlarged details of the paintings, are signed as painted, engraved and published by James Barry and dated 1795 (pl. [7, 8, 12]) or as designed, engraved and published by him and dated 1793 (pl. [9]), or unsigned (pl. [10, 11]). Plate [14] is unsigned, but carries a dedication to C.J. Fox from Barry. Plate [15] is signed, 'James Barry pinxit &c.'. The last plate [16] is signed as etched by Louis Schiavonetti from a drawing by James Barry, and as published by the Society.

In the first copy the front pastedown carries the binder's ticket, which reads, 'Bound By Westleys & Clark. - London.'


D.G.C. Allan, The Progress Of Human Knowledge And Culture A Description of the paintings by James Barry in the Lecture Hall or 'Great Room' of the RSA in London Written by the Artist Edited with an introduction and keys (2005); W.L. Pressly, 'A chapel of natural and revealed religion: James Barry's series for the Society's Great Room reinterpreted', in Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, 132 (1984), p.543-6, 634-7, 693-5. J. Barrell, The political theory of painting, from Reynolds to Hazlitt (1986); J. Barrell, 'The functions of art in a commercial society: the writings of James Barry', in 18th century theory and interpretation, 25 (1984), p.117-40; James Barry: the artist as hero, ed W.L. Pressly [exhibition catalogue] (London, Tate, 1983); W.L. Pressly, The life and art of James Barry (1981).

Summary Note

Several plates carry publication-dates - of 1791 (pl. [1-6, 13]), 1795 (pl. [7, 8, 12]), 1793 (pl. [9]), 1800 (pl. [14]), 1776 (pl. [15]).

James Barry's six large murals on canvas for the Great Room of the Royal Society of Arts were painted between 1777 and 1784, and represent his most sustained effort as a history-painter. Their subject is the progress of civilization; and they depict both allegoric and historical figures.

Plates [1-6] are captioned and have accompanying texts. They are described in the 'General Subject Of The Prints' as showing: [1] Mankind in a savage state, with the story of Orpheus; [2] Harvest-home or thanksgiving to Ceres and Bacchus; [3] Victors at Olympia; [4] Navigation, or triumph of the Thames; [5] Distribution of rewards by the Society of Arts; [6] Elysium or final retribution. Plates [7-12] are described in their preceding note as consisting of four enlarged details of the preceding 'Elysium', with additional figures (including Calvart Baron of Baltimore) and an enlarged detail of the preceding 'Victors at Olympia'. Plate [13] shows sketches of two paintings (representing King George as a supporter of an independent judiciary and Queen Charlotte as an educator) that might have hung above the chimneypieces of the Great Room, and have formed a suite with the six described in pl. [1-6] above; pl. [14], Isabella of Spain; [15] King Lear; [16] Pandora.

In 1782 Barry was appointed Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy (he had become a Member in 1773); but in 1799 he was expelled because of his alleged public criticism of the Academy and some of its Members (and possibly, also, for his known republicanism).

The paintings may be seen at the Royal Society of Arts, London. The Royal Academy holds a study for 'King George giving the Bill to the Judges' (sketched in pl. [13] above).


Copy 1: Purchase of this copy was resolved by Council on 31 December 1792 (RA Council Minutes II, 176) and in part at least produced by the President (i.e. Benjamin West) at a Council meeting on 12 July 1793 (RA Council Minutes II, 184).

Copy 2: This copy was bequeathed to the Royal Academy by Gilbert Bakewell Stretton.

Copy Note

Copy 2: With the title page inscribed in ink, 'J. H. Smith Feby. 5th 1895 c/././.'

Binding Note

[Copy 1:] 20th-century half morocco, 19th-century marbled-papered boards, spine lettered, 'Etchings - Barry', 'R.A.' and '1808'.

[Copy 2:] 19th-century half calf, marbled-papered boards; rebacked in cloth retaining earlier red morocco spine-label lettered 'Barry's Etchings'.

Name as Subject


Civilization - Arts - Greece - Great Britain - Iconography
Allegories - Symbols - Great Britian - 18th century
Paintings, European - Paintings, British - History paintings - Interior decoration - Site-specific works - Great Britain - London - 18th century - Neoclassical
Pictorial works - 19th century


William Bulmer, printer
Paul Colnaghi, bookseller
Luigi Schiavonetti, engraver
Gilbert Bakewell Stretton, previous owner, donor
John Halphead Smith, previous owner
Westleys and Clark (London), binder