Elysium, or the State of Final Retribution

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

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The final part of the sequence 'The Progress of Human Knowledge and Culture' is its other long painting and Barry returns to the Greek subjects of the earlier pieces, as well as a culmination of the narrative of the sequence. It shows Elysium, the Greek afterlife reserved for the virtuous, and Barry has assembled across time a diverse cast of individuals who've earned a place in this heaven, including scientists, philosophers and legislators. Dominating the foreground is an angelic guard drawn from 'Paradise Lost', an archangel weighing something which is not seen, and another angel who is explaining something to a group of theologians. Directly above in the background, is Homer, holding Orpheus' lyre and surrounded by Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer.

Royal Society of Arts



Elysium, or the State of Final Retribution




oil on canvas


H 360 x W 1308 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

commissioned for the Society's Meeting Room, c.1777–1784

Work type



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Royal Society of Arts

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

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