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    Sale 13731

    Brian Sewell - Critic & Collector

    27 September 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 80

    James Barry, R.A. (Cork 1741-1806 London)

    Milo of Croton

    Price Realised  


    James Barry, R.A. (Cork 1741-1806 London)
    Milo of Croton
    signed 'Jas. Barry Invt.' (recto) and 'J. Barry Invt.' (verso)
    brush and brown wash with touches of pen (recto); pen and brown ink (verso)
    6 7/8 x 5 3/8 in. (17.7 x 13.7 cm.); and Study of a left leg for one of the figures of the Angelic Guards in 'Elysium and Tartarus of the State of Final Retribution' in the Society of Arts, signed and inscribed 'J. Barry sketch Adelphea' [sic], pencil heightened with white on buff paper, 10¾ x 8¼ in. (26.3 x 21 cm.)

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    Peter Murray in T. Dunne, op. cit., p. 84, suggests that this drawing of the unfortunate Milo was executed during Barry’s stay in Rome 1766-70 and was inspired by the Belvedere Torso. Milo was a 6th Century B.C. Achaean. While he attempted to rend a tree apart he was caught in the cleft and eaten alive by wolves, or in some versions by a lion, here seen attacking on the left. A much larger and probably slightly earlier version is in the British Museum, Pressly, op. cit., 1981, p. 246, no. 5.

    The inscription on the second drawing of a leg appears to refer to Barry’s masterpiece, his decorations for the Great Room in the newly built home of the Society of Arts at the Adelphi, just south of the Strand, London. In 1774 the Society proposed that a group of ten artists should decorate the Great Room. The artists, who included Barry, declined, but in 1777 Barry approached the Society with his own decorative scheme, provided that the Society covered the costs of his canvases, colours and, significantly, models. His series of six very large paintings have been called by Sir Ellis Waterhouse, ‘the most considerable achievement in the true “grand style” by any British painter of the century’. For the origins of the scheme see Pressly, op.cit., 1981, pp. 86-7, and W. Pressly, James Barry’s Murals at the Royal Society of Arts: Envisioning a new Public Art, Cork, 2014, pp. 14-18.

    Few preliminary studies for Barry’s paintings at the Royal Society of Arts have survived. Murray in his essay in the Cork exhibition catalogue, op. cit., p. 203, suggests that the present life study may relate to the print of The Angelic Guards taken from Elysium and Tartarus of the State of Final Retribution, see Cork exhibition catalogue, 2005, PR38, p. 196.

    The artist’s sale in these Rooms, 10 April 1807 included a large number of ‘Academy Figures'. Lot 41 was described as ‘Nine studies for the pictures in the Adelphi’, sold to £3/5/0 to [? William Young] Ottley, while lot 44, ‘Seven [sketches] from Milton, the Adelphi pictures, etc.’ sold for £2/15/0.

    We are grateful to Martin Butlin for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.


    (i) The artist's sale; Christie's, London, 10 April 1807, part of lot 38 (sold 2½ gns.).
    (i) Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 18 March 1982, lot 86.
    (ii) Dublin, 1960s, where purchased by Brian Sewell.


    ii) W.L. Pressly, The Life and Art of James Barry, New Haven and London, 1981, pp. 257-8, no. 83.


    i) Cork, Crawford Art Gallery, James Barry (1741-1806), 2005-6, no. DR28; and ii) ibid, no. DR 62.