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This print was first published in 1792 after the allegorical painting in the Royal Society of Arts series titled Commerce or the Triumph of Navigation. In a scene combining historical, contemporary, and allegorical figures, Barry championed the notion that improvements in manufactured goods and in branches of commerce imprinted the idea of excellence in the minds of Englishmen, thus counteracting what he saw as the prevailing evil of government corruption.
The figure of Mercury or Commerce flies lower over the enthroned personification of the Thames than in the painting, reflecting the overall compression of the scene in the print. It has the advantage, however, of projecting the figures in this somewhat bizarre composition further into the foreground where they are more clearly identifiable. In the river, the seafaring heroes Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Captain James Cooke, surrounded by nymphs, lead Father Thames out into the sea as he disperses British manufactured goods to the four principal trading continents.
from Bindman, No Cross, No Crown: Prints by James Barry from the Collection of William L. and Nancy Pressly (Notre Dame, 2016)