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'. "The distribution of Premiums in a Society founded for the purposes of raising up and perfecting useful andingenious arts, forms an idea picturesque and ethical in itself, and makes a limb of my general subject, not ill-suited to the other parts.The sitting figure in the left corner of the picture, who holds the instrument of the institution in his hand, isWilliam Shipley. One of the two farmers, who are producing specimens of corn to Lord Romney, thePresident, is Arthur Young. Near him is Samuel More, Secretary to the Society; on the left side of LordRomney is the Hon. Charles Marsham, Vice-President of the Society,* [right], and between him and the Princeof Wales, who is in robes of the Garter is Owen Salusbury Brereton.* Towards the centre of the picture is adistinguished example of female excellence, Mrs Montagu, earnestly recommending the ingenuity and industryof a young female, whose work she is producing; around her [left to right] stand the late Duchess ofNorthumberland, the Earl Percy,* Joshua Steele,* Sir George Saville,* Dr Hurd, Bishop of Worcester, SoameJenyns, and James Harris.Beyond Mrs Montagu stand the two beautiful Duchesses of Rutland and Devonshire. Between them I haveplaced that venerable sage, Dr Samuel Johnson, who is pointing out this example of Mrs Montagu, as worthytheir attention and imitation. Further right is the Duke of Richmond,* and near him [left] is Edmund Burke.Further left is Edward Hooper,* and Keane Fitzgerald.* The Duke of Northumberland,* the Earl of Radnor,*William Locke and Dr William Hunger [left to right] are looking at some drawings by a youth who hasobtained the premium; behind him is a boy with a portfolio under his arm, in whose countenance I wished tomark dejection and envy, as he is attending to the praises they are bestowing on the successful boy. Theclergyman in the top [right] corner is Dr Stephen Hales,* behind him is the first Earl of Radnor,* and LordFolkestone, who was the first President of the Society.In the background appears part of the waterfront of Somerset House and St Paul’s. In the corners of thepicture are specimens of cotton and indigo, for the cultivation of which, particularly in America, the Societyhad given premiums and bounties there are also gun barrels of white tough iron, maps, charts, madder,cochineal, a gun-harpoon for striking whales, English carpets and large paper, proper for copper-plate printing.As the Society have given premiums for history painting and sculpture, I have introduced a picture and a statuein the background; the picture is of the Fall of Lucifer, a design which I made for St Paul’s Cathedral; the statueis the Grecian mother dying, and, attentive only to the safety of her child, putting it back from her breast, afterwhich it is striving.Below the painting the Fall of Lucifer is the artist’s, “Birth of Venus,” rendered as a relief. In the left corner of thepicture are designs for coins and medals examined by an aged connoisseur, in the [right] a tea-kettle of classical design[the last mentioned two additions being painted in 1801]. (*An asterisk indicates a Vice-President of the Society of Arts)" - www.rsa.org.uk
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