Letter from JAMES BARRY to SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS, written 17 November 1770, at Bologna

Source: Fryer, Works of Barry, i. 192-93.

Receiving no response from the Burkes about his financial difficulties, Barry tries to contact them by asking their mutual friend, the painter and President of the Royal Academy, Sir Joshua Reynolds, to forward his letter.

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Bologna, Nov. 17, 1770.

Dear Sir,

I hope you will excuse the liberty I take in troubling you with the care of this letter, for Messrs. Burke, which I beg you will send to them speedily into the country, if they be there, as I have some reason to think they are, by my receiving no answer to the three last letters I sent them.1 To one of which at least an answer was exceedingly necessary for me, as it was upon a money affair; but to be sure these letters have never reached them.

As both you and Mr. Burke advised my staying some time in Bologna,2 I am extremely sorry that so much of my attention was left to my own taste and discernment. I could have wished to have known how the old Bolognese painters stood in the judgment of my friends; and when your name was mentioned in Mr. William Burke's letter, I really hoped that some advice would have followed it, regarding the particular manners and differences that are found in the good pictures here of Ludovico, Annibal, Agostino Carrache, Guercino, Guido, and Dominichino:3 I remember one day at your house a very just and useful remark you made upon the solemn low tone of colouring of Ludovico. Guercino has also much of this manner in his fine picture at St. Gregorio, 4with this difference, that I observe in this picture of Guercino more mellowing and fuoco5 in the colouring. Many of Ludovico's pictures have been cleaned and retouched a few years ago, as I have been informed, and are much the worse for it. It is a great pity that Guercino did not paint all his pictures in the grave majestic tone of this at St. Gregorio. He has in the general run of his work too much white among his colours.

There is hardly any thing that could be more welcome to me than a letter from you, in which I could wish above all things, that you would speak your opinion plainly upon whatever advantages you think I might derive from Correggio's works at Parma,6 or other works of art which lie in my way home, and which I have not yet seen.

By letters from Rome, I am informed of the arrival of my things in England, so that before this time you will have seen my picture of Adam and Eve, 7by which you will be enabled to point out to me whatever remedies, youremedies you think may be necessary to correct my deficiencies. It is what I expect from your candour and the obliging friendly dispositions which were manifested in the letter you favoured me with in Rome;8 I wish ardently you was to do it, as it is much my interest and desire to fortify myself as well as I can in my profession, before my arrival in England. Messrs. Netterville and Nugent, merchants in the city, will inform you by penny post, whether the bill I drew upon them is paid;9 if so, and that you think of favouring me with a letter, direct to me at the post in Parma; but if the bill is not answered, direct to me at Bologna, where your letter must infallibly find me. I am, dear sir, with great affection and respect, your most obedient humble servant,

J.B.James Barry.

In consequence of the compliment made me by the Bolognese artists of receiving me into their body, I have painted a picture of Philoctetes for the Institute; the figure is larger than the life.10