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Title: Crowning the victors at Olympia
Author: Barry, James (Irish painter, printmaker, and lithographer, 1741-1806, active in England)
Issue Date: 2007
Description: The following description of this image is an abridged account by James Barry published in 1783 under the title 'The Great Room Paintings; The Progress of Human Knowledge & Culture by James Barry'. "I have taken the point of time, when the victors pass in the procession before the Hellanodicae or Judges,where they are crowned with olive, in the presence of all the Grecians. The Three judges are seated on athrone [right] ornamented with medallions of Solon and Lycurgus, under which come trophies of the victoriesof Salamis, Marathon and Thermopylae. One of the judges with his hand stretched out is declaring theOlympiad. At the foot of the throne there sits a figure, who is just going to write down what the Hellanodicesis proclaiming; just behind his Herodotus with his history of Greece in his hand, and near him [left], andfurther in the picture, is one in white, with his finger on his lips, and that system in his hand, which was held bythe Pythagoreans, and has been since revived by Copernicus; near him stands Hippocrates and Democritus.Behind the stadium is the altis, where the statues of the victors were placed and the temple of JupiterOlympius. In the distance, is the town of Elis, and the river Alpheus.Near the table [right] an inferior Hellanodices is crowning the victor in the foot-race, and putting into his handa branch of palm; the next figure is a foot-racer, who ran armed with a helmet, spear and shield; the next is apancratiast, and the victor at cestus;* then comes the horse and the chariot. In the chariot is Hiero ofSyracuse; Pindar leads the chorus. The old man on the shoulders of the boxer and pancratiast is Diagoras of Rhodes, who having been often in his younger days celebrated for his victories in those games, is now beingcarried round the stadium by his victorious sons. The spectators consist of celebrated characters of Greece,who lived nearly about that time. The rearing up of the horse, which comes next after the boxer, has by opening that line of figures furnished me with an opportunity of introducing Pericles, whom I wished to represent speaking to Cimon; near him are Socrates, Anaxagoras [3rdand 2nd left], and Euripides [right, between Pericles and Cimon], who may be supposed to be entertained with the wisdom and eloquence of the speaker, whilst the profligate Aristophanes appearing just behind him is attentive to nothing but theimmoderate length of his head. When I painted this figure of Pericles, I knew of no bust of him remaining, and the late Lord Chatham being just then dead, and there being a striking resemblance in the character andfortunes of those two great men, I was determined to melt them into one figure.The man with the bandage over one eye [right], who is strewing flowers, and congratulating the armed foot-racer, shows this to be a contest of glory, and not of rancour. The baso-relievo on the chariot [left] is thecontest between Neptune and Minerva, for the naming and patronage of Athens. At one end [right] of thepicture is a statue of Minerva, at the other [left] a statue of Hercules treading down Envy. One the base of thestatue of Hercules sits Timanthes the painter, with his picture of the Cyclops and Satyrs; as there is noportrait of Timanthes remaining, from a vanity not uncommon amongst artists, I shall take the liberty to supply him with my own." -
Role: artist
Culture: Irish
Dimensions/Extent: 360 cm x 1308 cm
Material (Support): canvas
Period: 18th century
Title of Larger Entity: Adelphi series - The Progress of Human Culture
Work: painting
Appears in Collections:TRIARC - Crookshank-Glin Collection (Digital Image Collection)

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