This painting, made in 1795, provides an insight into the contents of the collection in its first 27 years. The scene depicts many of the artists who founded and ran the early Royal Academy, gathered in the Council Room of Somerset House (one of the RA’s former homes). They’re judging the artworks made by that year’s students of the RA Schools (the art school that’s been at the heart of the Royal Academy since it was founded in 1768).
The artist has divided the painting into three distinct sections: the foreground, in which we see Academicians holding up student works to judge; the middle ground, which comprises plaster cast copies of classical sculptures that would have been drawn by students in the Schools; and the background, where we see works by Royal Academicians displayed on or near the walls. Singleton thus creates a dialogue between these three types of work, showing how new work is inspired by old.
The casts are copies of famous classical sculptures. From left to right, these are the Belvedere Torso (original in the Vatican, Rome), the Borghese Gladiator (Louvre, Paris), the Laocoön (Vatican, Rome), the Venus de’ Medici (Uffizi, Florence), the Dog of Alcibiades (British Museum, London) and the Apollo Belvedere (Vatican, Rome). Casts of many of the same sculptures are still in the RA Collection today and are installed permanently in the Cast Corridor of the RA Schools.