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James Barry; Dominique Lefevre; James Paine the Younger

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Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

James Barry; Dominique Lefevre; James Paine the Younger

by James Barry
circa 1767
23 3/4 in. x 19 3/4 in. (605 mm x 500 mm)
NPG 213

This portraitback to top

This challenging portrait was painted at a time when the artist was describing himself as a ‘pock-pitted, hard-featured little fellow’. [1] It is the earliest of the self portraits, and was described in 1807 as painted in Rome in 1767, showing Barry with two fellow artists, James Paine jr. (1745-1829) and Dominique Lefèvre (c.1737-69). They appear in the background as colourless figures studying the Belvedere torso (seen upper right) which, for Barry, was the greatest surviving work of antiquity. [2]
Which of the background figures is Paine and which Lefèvre is not altogether clear. When NPG 213 was painted Paine was twenty-two and Lefèvre thirty. Lefèvre was certainly a painter, but no portrait of him is known. [3] In 1981 Pressly suggested it was Paine who held the palette [4], but a comparison with the aquiline profile shown in his portrait by Reynolds of 1764 [5] might suggest he is the further figure. Although Paine’s artistic interests were widespread, in 1767 he described himself as a sculptor [6] and Barry wrote from Rome in February 1767 that a model Paine had made of Venus and Adonis had earned him ‘no small degree of credit’. [7] Paine remained a loyal friend of Barry [8] and it would be more appropriate if he were the more prominent figure.

Footnotesback to top

1) Barry, Works, 1809, I, p 172 (letter to The Burkes, Rome, 8 July 1769).
2) Ibid., p 447.
3) The pupil in Paris of the painter J-M. Vien, he had won the prix de Rome in 1761 and was in Rome by 1764.
4) W. L. Pressly, The Life and Art of James Barry, 1981, p 236; apparently the first attempt to identify Paine and Lefèvre. Pressly’s identifications have since always been accepted and may, of course, be correct.
5) Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, I, 2000, no.1376).
6) As a subscriber to his father’s Plans (H. Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1995, p 726).
7) Barry, Works, 1809, I, p 82.
8) On hearing of Barry’s final illness Paine recalled their long acquaintance, ‘notwithstanding every peculiarity of disposition’ and ‘his very rare, and high abilities’ (letter to ‘Cooper’, 15 February 1806, bound into the NPG copy of Barry’s Works, 1809, I).

Physical descriptionback to top

Light brown eyes, dark brown hair, wearing a red-brown coat.

Provenanceback to top

Barry sale, Christie’s, 1807, lot 73 ('Three Portraits in one Picture, Barry, Jas. Paine, and Lefevre of the French academy, then students at Rome, in 1767'), bought S. W. Singer; W. Anthony, from whom purchased 1866.

Exhibitionsback to top

Tate Gallery 1956-74; British Self Portraits, Arts Council, 1962(42); British Artists in Rome, Kenwood, 1974(86); Zwei Jahrhunderte Englische Malerei, Munich 1979-80 (140); Barry, Tate, 1983 (15); Genial Company, Scottish NPG, 1987 (28); Grand Tour, Tate Gallery, Rome, 1996-97 (28).


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.

View all known portraits for James Barry