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Blessed Exegesis is unsigned and may have been intended simply as an experimental work. The bearded philosopher wearing a monk’s cowl reads a book on the left of the image, securing its pages with his right hand; on the right are seen the heads of young beardless soldiers, distinguished as such by their helmets. Their instructive poses, one with an open mouth as if speaking and the other with a raised finger…The artist applied the aquatint unevenly and in a single biting to this dense configuration of etched lines, creating flickers of light across the surface of the image. More than a photographic print, this curious work achieves something of the effect of a photographic negative: the features of the soldiers are readable only intermittently through the apparently oscillating surface of the picture plane.
from Bindman, No Cross, No Crown: Prints by James Barry from the Collection of William L. and Nancy Pressly (Notre Dame, 2016)