Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Study for Divine Justice

James Barry (Irish, Cork 1741–1806 London)
ca. 1802
Pen and brown ink with gray wash over graphite
Sheet: 27 7/16 in. × 19 in. (69.7 × 48.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Charles and Jessie Price Gift, in honor of George R. Goldner, 2015
Accession Number:
Not on view
Barry's striking drawing presents groups of historical noteworthies attended by angels, and the imagery derives from "Elysium and Tartarus," one of six great murals he painted in the Great Room of the Society of the Arts in London between 1777 and 1783. Celebrating the rise of human culture from ancient times to his own day, the artist received so little remuneration that he created etchings to disseminate his ideas. This sheet relates to a print of circa 1802, and celebrates "those great and good men of all ages and nations, who were cultivators and benefactors of mankind." At the apex, a heavenly being strews flowers over leading patrons–Trajan, Titus, Peter the Great, Henry IV of France, Andrea Doria of Genoa, Scipio Africanus, Cosimo de' Medici, Alexander the Great, Louis XIV, and Pope Julius II. Below, the theologians Origen, Pascal, Bossuet, Antoine Arnauld, and Bishop Butler debate with angels analogies between religion and nature, the group supported by the sublime form of Divine Justice resting at the edge of Tartarus. To suggest the prevalence of evil over good in history, she tilts her scales towards the abyss. Barry's draftsmanship combines bold outlines with expressive wash, and incised lines around the forms demonstrate how he transfered the image to a copper plate to create a related etching.
Sabin Galleries (London), by 1967; William L. Pressly, from the preceding in 1981; C. G. Boerner, New York, in 2015; Vendor: C. G. Boerner LLC, New York
Angelika Kauffmann und ihre Zeitgenossen. Exh. cat., Vorarlberger Landesmuseum, Bregenz, and Oesterreichisches Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Vienna. 1968, cat. no. 114, p. 90.

William L. Pressly The Life and Art of James Barry. New Haven and London, 1981, cat. no. 45, p. 252.

William L. Pressly James Barry: The Artist as Hero Exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London, February 9–March 20. 1983, cat. no. 41, p. 95.

William L. Pressly James Barry, 1741-1806: 'The Great Historical Painter' Exh. cat., Crawford Art Gallery, Cork. Tom Dunne, 2005, p. 105.

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