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Elysium and Tartarus (State of Final Retribution)
This print is a variation on Barry’s last painting in the series for the Royal Society of Arts…While the print is a condensed and compressed version of the painting, it nonetheless incorporates most of the 125 identifiable notables found in Elysium or Heaven, among them scientists, philosophers, statesmen, defenders of liberty, patrons, and theologians, who will provide the basis for a civilized society conducive to the flourishing of the arts…In the foreground, the Quaker William Penn presents a scroll with his code of laws establishing religious toleration in the Colony of Pennsylvania, another essential prerequisite for this creative utopia. And indeed, Barry represents this notion very literally, showing Homer and other writers, poets, and artists ranged on a hill in the distance, apparently waiting for the mortals to sort things out so they can get to work.
God is represented by a burst of light from the left while on the far right is the gloomy abyss of Tartarus, separated from Elysium by a rocky barrier guarded by angels. In it, a partially visible figure with a raised pitchfork drags a nude woman by the hair into the depths. The palms and sculpture at the far left and the guard seated on the ledge of Tartarus at the right with his vertical spear serve to stabilize the realm in between.
from Bindman, No Cross, No Crown: Prints by James Barry from the Collection of William L. and Nancy Pressly (Notre Dame, 2016)