1741 Cork, Ireland – London 1806
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The Distribution of Premiums at the Society of Arts 1792
etching and engraving on laid paper; 416 x 510 mm (16 ⅜ x 20 inches)
Pressly 21 third state (of four); cat. London, Barry, 33; cat. Cork PR30
private collection, Kent, England, probably since the early nineteenth century
A very good impression; some pale foxing noticeable mainly in the margins; two traces from worm damage in the outer lower margin not extending to the image; overall in very good condition, with generous margins all round.
The Distribution of Premiums at the Society of Arts was the fifth in the series. In it, Barry shows members of the society, attired in sometimes peculiar approximations of classical dress, distributing awards promoting the arts, agriculture, manufacture, and commerce. The distinguished figures here are divided into four main groups dominated from the left by the society’s president, Lord Romney, and the Prince of Wales in cloak, short tunic, and dagger but with a contemporary wig; Elizabeth Montagu presenting a young girl to the Duchess of Northumberland; and, to their right, Samuel Johnson who alerts the Duchesses of Rutland and Devonshire to the latter’s beneficence. On the far right, members of the society examine works by a young candidate (see Pressly in cat. London, Barry, p. 84). Barry champions not only the society’s patronage of the arts but also represents in the background his version of Somerset House, home of the Royal Academy, and St. Paul’s Cathedral, an institution seen as having the potential to encourage religious art.