Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd

  • Pen and brown and grey inks and wash over pencil
  • 9 ¾ × 7 ¾ inches · 245 × 195 mm
  • Drawn c. 1720
  • £4,800


  • Abbott & Holder;
  • Major A. R. Tavener, to 2017


  • London, Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd., The Spirit and Force of Art: Drawing in Britain 1600-1750, 2018, cat. no.18.

The subject of this study preoccupied Thornhill throughout his final decade and a half of life: the encouragement of the arts. At the bottom left, a winged Saturn sits, refreshing three putti with river water. One putto wears a laurel crown representing fame, another with a lyre represents music and third with a palette and brushes represents the fine arts. Justice observes from a distance in the skies, emanating beneficent rays and on the hill Mercury, representing trade, sits on Pegasus, a symbol of poetry. In ancient myth, Saturn brought forth a golden age when he arrived at Latium, a city on the banks of the Tiber built on the hills where Rome was later founded. Through his allegory, Thornhill is asserting the centrality of the arts in a properly functioning society and expressing a hope that the nascent arts are on the verge of a golden age. The shape of the central compartment of this ceiling is uncommon in Thornhill's work and it is likely that this was one of many drawings that Thornhill made in the 1720s as an intellectual exercise, rather than as part of a commissioned project.