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The Phoenix (The Resurrection of Freedom)
The Phoenix or The Resurrection of Freedom was Barry’s first and bravest political statement in print, a championing of the American cause to which this democratic medium was well suited…As Father Time scatters flowers upon the ruins of classical Athens, ancient Rome, and Renaissance Florence in the middle ground, the Three Graces frolic on American shores before the Temple of Liberty in the distance. Apart from the incongruous contrivance of the rococo vignette of the shepherd piping to a shepherdess at the right of the temple (Pressly, Life and Art, p. 77), the open vistas behind them suggest boundless freedoms. The scene in the right foreground, however, is the main focus of the print: some of the artist’s most revered seventeenth-century thinkers—Sidney, Milton, Marvell, and Locke—all republicans of sorts, are shown in the guise of solemn mourners surrounding the bier of Britannia (with Barry’s self-portrait included on the far right). From the back of the coat of the chained figure standing in front of the bier, possibly Edmund Burke (also sympathetic to the American cause; see Pressly in cat. London, p. 75), emerges a paper marked “Habs Corps,” a reference to the government’s attacks on the Habeas Corpus Act. Various further inscriptions, including one on the tombstone at the left consisting of a chillingly autocratic message from the king, and one on Britannia’s bier, “a Monument to the Memory of British Freedom a Corrupt degenerate Nobility & Gentry, dissipated poor rapacious & dependent upon the Court” serve as further indictments of the British establishment.
from Bindman, No Cross, No Crown: Prints by James Barry from the Collection of William L. and Nancy Pressly (Notre Dame, 2016)