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Know Thy Self

Benjamin West

American Art

Most likely a preliminary study for a never-realized history painting, Benjamin West’s wash drawing presents an allegorical vision of London’s Royal Academy of Arts, a professional artists’ organization founded in 1768, as a gathering of learned men from different epochs. Some figures wear classical togas, while others don contemporary wigs and robes. Additional references to enlightenment—including the bright spotlight in the composition’s center and the bust of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, in the background—symbolize the noble endeavors of the institution and its commitment to the classical tradition.
MEDIUM Iron gall ink and washes, and oil impasto and washes on ivory, moderately thick, moderately textured laid paper.
DATES 1768
DIMENSIONS Sheet: 18 3/4 x 25 1/2 in. (47.6 x 64.8 cm)  (show scale)
SIGNATURE Signed in ink on face of block at lower right: "Benjn. West 1768--"
INSCRIPTIONS Inscribed in ink on face of block in center: "Know thy self"
CREDIT LINE Brooklyn Museum Collection
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Benjamin West (American, 1738–1820). Know Thy Self, 1768. Iron gall ink and washes, and oil impasto and washes on ivory, moderately thick, moderately textured laid paper., Sheet: 18 3/4 x 25 1/2 in. (47.6 x 64.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum Collection, X1042.40 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, X1042.40_PS2.jpg)
IMAGE overall, X1042.40_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2010
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RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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