The following description is from 'The Great Room Paintings The Progress of Human Knowledge & Culture by James', an abridged version of 'An Account of a series of pictures in the Great Room of the Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce at the Adelphi'written by James Barry in 1783. "The practise of personifying rivers is as ancient as the arts of poetry, painting and sculpture. It has been my endeavour to represent Father Thames as of venerable, majestic and gracious aspect, steering himself with one hand, and holding in the other the mariner’s compass. Europe, Asia, Africa and America are brought together[left], pouring their several productions into his lap. Father Thames is carried along by the great navigators,Drake, Raleigh, Sebastian Cabot and the late Captain Cook in the character of Tritons. Overhead is Mercury summoning the nations together, and below [right] are Nereids carrying several articles of our manufacturers and commerce; if some of those Nereids appear more sportive than industrious, and others still more wanton than sportive, the picture has variety and, I am sorry to add, the great resemblance to the truth.As music is naturally connected with matters of joy and triumph and the retinue of the Thames could not appear without an artist in this way, I was happy to introduce Dr Burney. In the distance is a view of the chalky cliffs of the coast of England, and a combined mausoleum, observatory and lighthouse which the Tritons have erected in tribute to the first Naval Power [added to the painting in 1801]." -- www.rsa.org.uk
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