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ID number:  BIRBI-57.3
Institution:  The Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Artist / Maker:  Pether, William (1738-about 1821), after Joseph Wright (1734-1797)
Title / Object name:  Three Persons Viewing The Gladiator by Candlelight
Object type:  Print
Place made:  London
Culture:  British
Date made:  1769
Materials:  Mezzotint
Provenance:  Purchased from Colnaghi's, January 1957
BIRBI-57.3.jpg

This print reproduces Wright’s first exhibited painting, shown in 1765. The Gladiator was a famous antique statue, admired for its truthful rendering of anatomy, and it was well known in Britain from numerous copies and casts. The three men study the statue, lit dramatically by candle light. The figure to the right, thought to be the artist himself, holds up his own drawing. The print therefore replicates a painting which contains a drawing of a sculpture, which, in turn, is a copy many times over. The mezzotint process produces deep tones and rich contrasts which are particularly suited to Wright’s candlelit scenes.

This print reproduces Wright’s original 1765 painting of three
scholars discussing the anatomy of a famous classical statue. The
artist on the right, who holds up his drawing of the sculpture,
is thought to be a self-portrait of Wright. By copying the image,
Pether alters another artist’s self-portrait. This work embodies four
different types of artistic media: sculpture, drawing, print-making
and painting. Wright and Pether enjoyed a close friendship and
co-operated on artworks for many years. Their complementary
styles, particularly Pether’s skill at reproducing the deep contrasts
in Wright’s candlelit scenes, ensured the great success of their
mezzotint prints.

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