Historical Portraits Picture Archive

An Arcadian Landscape with Deities 1790c.

Thomas Barker of Bath 

An Arcadian Landscape with Deities, Thomas Barker of Bath
Oil on canvas
18th Century
35 x 46 inches 88.6 x 116.5 cm
Private Collection.
This large landscape, most probably painted on Barker's return from a three-year sojourn in Italy from 1790 to 1793, is perhaps best seen as an homage to the painters he had studied during his time there. It is certainly not a serious piece, and the deities depicted converging around the portly figure of Silenus - whom the painter may have meant for Bacchus - do not import any of the menace that their stories, separately, might imply.

Amid the various figures in the left foreground can be discerned a slender Hercules draped in yellow, leaning on his club, whilst a satyr with goat''s legs sits at his master's feet. Above in the tree is a youth who might be identified as Olympus, whilst the herdsman approaching in blue in certainl;y Mercury, who was punished by this task for killing Juno's herdsman, the many-eyed Argos. The goddess sitting on the bank of the lake is Venus, and the swans in the water are one of her emblems. It is possible that the personae of this scene have been decided according to a programme of the patron''s, since no specific myth is alluded to, and some of the actors remain unrecognised.

It is not known who commissioned this work from Barker, or whether it was painted speculatively. Although he is best known for the English landscape paintings with which he and his family are generally associated, Barker painted a number of subjects, Italianate like this, in colouring and subject. These tend to be paintings of Bandit subjects, such as Salvator Rosa had made his in the seventeenth century and which had influenced painters such as John Wootton in the eighteenth. Here the treatment is reminiscent of the late seventeenth centry landscapes of Pier Francesco Mola, with recollections in the cerulean sky and dignified groupings of figures of Claude Lorraine, the great god of landscape painting.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.