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James Barry, 1741–1806
Study of Hercules for 'Crowning the Victors at Olympia'
between 1777 and 1780
Materials & Techniques:
Pen and black ink with brown wash over black chalk on medium, moderately textured, brown wove paper
Sheet: 15 3/16 × 8 3/8 inches (38.6 × 21.3 cm)

Inscribed in blue ink, lower right [inscription partially effaced]: “C. Bent[e]ly”

Signed in brown ink, lower left: “Ja.s Barry”

Earl of Warwick collector's mark, lower right (Lugt 2600)

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
figure study | man | religious and mythological subject | winners
Associated Places:
Greece | Olympia
Associated People:
Accessible by appointment in the Study Room [Request]
Note: The Study Room is open by appointment. Please visit the Study Room page on our website for more details.
IIIF Manifest:

Only around a dozen life drawings by James Barry have survived despite leaving more than two hundred of them in his studio at the time of his death. This is one of two now at the Center (the other B1977.14.5752) and was made around 1777 when Barry began a cycle of paintings celebrating the 'Progress of Human Culture' to decorate the Great Room of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in London. Barry conceived the cycle in six parts, all the paintings executed in situ on vast canvases for which he was paid nothing but his materials and expenses. He was given £15 by the Society on March 5, 1777 to pay his male and female models in preparing his paintings. This life study was made for the figure of Hercules whom Barry represented as a fictive statue to the left hand side of his third canvas, the 'Crowning of the Victors'. In his choice of pose Barry eschewed the most celebrated representation of Hercules, the Hellenistic 'Farnese Hercules', in favor of a more vigorous figure with the hero crushing envy beneath his foot; he later explained that his Hercules represented the strength of body exalted by the ancient Greeks, a fictive statue of Minerva at the other end of the canvas representing strength of mind. The model was presumably a manual laborer rather than a professional model for he was engaged and paid directly by Barry, not wanting his identity to be revealed to the Secretary of the Society of Arts.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2014

A Decade of Gifts and Acquisitions (Yale Center for British Art, 2017-06-01 - 2017-08-13) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Ilaria Bignamini, Artist's Model, Its Role in British Art from Lely to Etty , Nottingham University Art Gallery, Nottingham, 1991, pp. 54-55, cat. 24, N7574 B54 1991 (YCBA) HAAS also holds [YCBA]

Dealer Catalogue : Old Master and 19th-Century Drawings and Oil Sketches : January 28 to February 12, 2014, W. M. Brady & Company, New York, 2014, pp. 52-55, cat. 21, DealerCat W.M. Brady (YCBA) [YCBA]

Ralph Holland, Italian and Other Drawings, 1500-1800, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle, 1974, p. 39, cat. 118, NC255 H64 1974 (YCBA) [YCBA]

William L. Pressly, Life and Art of James Barry, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1981, p. 257, cat. 80, NJ18 B2425 P73 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Sotheby's, Sotheby's sale catalogue : ' Galleria Portatile ' : The Ralph Holland Collection : 5 July 2013, Sotheby's, London, July 5, 2013, p. 130, lot 354, Auction Catalogues (YCBA) [YCBA]

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