Commerce, or the Triumph of the Thames

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

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Unlike the previous three paintings, the fourth in the sequence 'The Progress of Human Knowledge and Culture' depicts a modern scene, albeit in a characteristically classical way, by personifying a river as a benevolent deity. A majestic Father Thames seated on a throne, steering himself with one hand and holding a compass in the other. Above him is the Roman deity Mercury, a god of trade analogous with the Greek Hermes, a patron saint of travellers and communicators. On the right of the picture, carrying Father Thames out to sea, surrounded by sea-nymphs, are the navigators (right to left), Drake, Raleigh, Cabot and Captain Cook, the latter shown as Triton, who is traditionally depicted as a merman. To the left of Father Thames, figures representing the native peoples of Asia, Africa, Europe and America are united in offering produce to him.

Royal Society of Arts



Commerce, or the Triumph of the Thames




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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