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The Distribution of Premiums in the Society of Arts

Photo credit: Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce

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The last of 'The Progress of Human Knowledge and Culture' sequence's smaller canvases illustrates the work of the Society in this period. In the background can be seen St Paul's Cathedral, where Barry was buried following his death in 1806, and the waterfront of Somerset House. Seated in the bottom left of the picture is the Society's founder, William Shipley, holding its first Charter, and around him are examples of some of the diverse endeavours the Society supported. The society's first president, Lord Romney, is being presented with specimens of corn by two farmers, while to the right is a group of women, who were never barred from becoming Members of the Society, including Elizabeth Montagu, shown recommending work by another woman. She in turn is being pointed out by Dr Samuel Johnson to the Duchesses of Rutland and Devonshire.

Royal Society of Arts



The Distribution of Premiums in the Society of Arts




oil on canvas


H 360 x W 462 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

commissioned for the Society's Meeting Room, c.1777

Work type



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Royal Society of Arts

8 John Adam Street, London, Greater London WC2N 6EZ England

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