Friday, 3 July 2009

Comerford Profiles 13: John Comerford (1770-1832), artist

John Comerford (1770-1832), a self-portrait of the Kilkenny-born artist

Patrick Comerford

John Comerford was one of the most interesting and prolific miniaturists in Ireland, and miniatures by him may be seen today in the National Gallery, Dublin, in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, at Kenwood House in London, and at occasional exhibitions organised in association with private collections.

John Comerford had a strong influence on Irish art in the 19th century, and his pupils included John Doyle, celebrated later for his Victorian caricatures in Punch and The Times.

Comerford has been the subject of renewed interest and re-evaluation with a number of retrospective exhibitions at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century in Kilkenny, Limerick and Dublin, with important accompanying catalogues.

Early life and career

Miniature painting as an art form can be traced to the work of Continental European artists in the mid-16th century, including Jean Fouquet (ca 1420-ca 1480), and Lucas Horenbout (died 1544), who probably taught Hans Holbein (1497-1543). Holbein’s arrival at the court of Henry VIII marks the beginning of an important era of royal patronage, continued by Elizabeth I who employed Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619) as her court painter. Hilliard was followed by Isaac Oliver, and noted miniaturists later in the 17th century included James Hoskins (died ca 1664) and his nephew Samuel Cooper (died 1672).

In the 18th century, the Georgian era was one of high activity by many good miniaturists in England and Ireland, many of them prodigious in their output. They included the Irish artist Nathaniel Hone (1718-1784), who lived and worked in England, and whose son Horace Hone (ca 1755-1825) returned to work in Ireland.

John Comerford stands out, however, as an Irish artist who was both self-taught and who worked throughout his career in Ireland. Comerford was born in Kilkenny around 1770,[1] although Jane Fenlon also suggests the date 1773 for his birth.[2] Some accounts suggest that Comerford was a native of Thomastown, Co Kilkenny,[3] but it is agreed generally that he was born in Kilkenny.[4] Redgrave’s catalogue says Comerford was born in Kilkenny in 1770, the son of “a respectable tradesman,”[5] while Strickland, Caffrey, Clarke and others say he was the son of a flax dresser.[6]

Strickland says little is known about Comerford’s early life, although Clarke says he his father lived and worked opposite the Tholsel in Kilkenny, which would make him a near-neighbour one of his future patrons and possible kinsman, James Comerford of the Butterslip [see Comerford Profiles 14: James Comerford (ca 1720-1808)]. Comerford acquired his early artistic skills by copying paintings in Kilkenny Castle, Carrick-on-Suir and other towns in the south-east, and he for some years he worked as portrait painter in oils in Kilkenny, Waterford, Carrick-on-Suir, other nearby places. Among his earliest works are portraits of Dr Edward Walsh (see No 116 below) of Carrick-on-Suir and his family.[8]

From Kilkenny, Comerford moved to Dublin, although we do not know when exactly. In Dublin, he studied at the Drawing Schools of the Dublin Society (later the Royal Dublin Society). On 13 May 1790, he was recommended for a certificate testifying to “his extraordinary merit in drawing from the flat.” On 7 April 1791, he received a silver medal in the first class for drawing a single figure from nature.[9]

Return to Kilkenny

Comerford was soon dividing his time between Dublin and Kilkenny. On 29 June 1793 and again on 13 September 1793, John Comerford advertised his arrival in Kilkenny from Dublin in Finn’s Leinster Journal: “Likenesses in oil and miniature by J. Comerford, who has arrived in Kilkenny for a short time at Mr Comerford’s opposite the Tholsel.” A similar announcement was published on 29 June 1793.[10]

The Mr Comerford named in Finn’s Leinster Journal as living opposite the Tholsel in Kilkenny was James Comerford of the Langton House, the Butterslip, Kilkenny (above). John Comerford was a regular guest of James and Anne (Langton) Comerford, and painted miniature portraits of each of them (see Nos 28-33 below). In addition, James Comerford’s nephew, James Comerford (1775-1825) (see Comerford Profiles 12: James Comerford (1775-1825) and witnesses to the 1798 Rising). James and Anne Comerford were painted by John Comerford (ca 1770-1832), when he was their guest in 1794, as well as perhaps other family members, and he painted James and Anne Comerford again in 1797 when he was their guest once more in Kilkenny.[11] At the same time he also painted his miniature portrait of Mary Tighe (Mrs Henry Tighe, née Blanchford, 1772-1810). This miniature (No 111), plaster-colour portrait, dating from 1794 or 1795, was later owned by the Earl of Mayo and is now in the National Portrait Gallery, London.[12] An Irish poet known by the pseudonym Psyche, she was the daughter of the Revd William Blachford. In 1793, she married her cousin, Henry Tighe, of Woodstock, Co Kilkenny. She died on 24 March 1810, at Woodstock, Co Kilkenny, and was buried at Inistioge.

Although by then he was established as a miniaturist, John Comerford remained unknown to the Dublin public as an artist until 1800.[13] Meanwhile, his style was influenced by a meeting in 1799 with the English artist George Chinnery (1774-1852), who was practising in Dublin from 1795 to 1802, and who had married in 1799. Comerford, who became a close, life-long friend of Chinnery, adopted a variation on the English artist’s style of miniature painting, and with the encouragement of Chinnery, Comerford abandoned working on portraits in oil, and for the rest of his career concentrated on miniatures.[14]

Comerford may also have been influenced by the American portrait painter Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828), who worked in Dublin from 1787 to 1793. From then on, Comerford generally worked in watercolour on ivory, using loose brushstrokes. His miniatures are relatively and are well-drawn, and the features of his sitters are relatively large and well-drawn. The features of his sitters are modelled using brown shading with a hint of blue in the darkest areas.[15]

Exhibitions in Dublin and London

In July 1800, and again in 1801, John Comerford was back working in Kilkenny.[16] His small paintings acquired great popularity and he soon enjoyed a lucrative practice,[17] and many of his works were engraved.[18]

Meanwhile, Chinnery had been struck with Comerford’s talents, and it was he who probably induced Comerford to contribute to the exhibitions Chinnery was instrumental in organising, so that by the turn of the century, Comerford was exhibiting frequently in Dublin and sometimes in London.[19]

These exhibitions in Dublin included exhibitions organised by the Society of Artists of Ireland in 1800, 1801, 1802, 1804, 1808 and 1810, and by the Irish Society of Artists in 1812 and 1813, while three of Comerford’s portraits were exhibited in the Royal Academy in London in 1804 and 1809.[20]

Comerford had abandoned painting in oil by the beginning of the 19th century, and now confined himself entirely to miniatures and small portraits in chalk or pencil, which earned him a high reputation.[21]

In 1800, Comerford exhibited in an exhibition held at Allen’s Rooms in Dames Street, Dublin, by the Society of Artists and which Chinnery helped to organise. The two portraits Comerford sent from Kilkenny to this exhibition were of the Warren sisters.[22]

In a review of an exhibition that included two paintings by John Comerford of the Warren sisters from Kilkenny (see Nos 119-120 below), the Hibernian Journal concluded in July 1800: “Here is an artist whom we never saw or ever before so much as heard of! Our astonishment at his pictures must excuse this note of admiration. We gaze indeed on their beauties with equal delight; but we dread, contrary to the last, only with the delight of an artist: and woe to those works of art … which can please none but artists.”[23]

It went on to say that “Comerford has depth and breadth of light and shade, and all that drawing can furnish, to afford that permanent and sober delight which a mere judge can desire; and to communicate the tincture, not texture, which can impart what Milton calls ‘transported sense of transporting touch’ he has but to accomplish a more variable and glowing perfection in his colouring.”[24]

Once again, in 1801, Comerford entered portraits from Kilkenny in an exhibition in Parliament House in Dublin. A review of these works quoted by Strickland says: “Comerford seems to play with his art in all the strength, the ease and the variety of the most vigorous and commanding genius.”[25]

Encouraged by his successes in 1800 and 1801, Comerford sent miniatures to an exhibition in the Parliament House in Dublin in 1802. His portraits at the exhibition included a drawing of William Ashford (see No 3 below), later a President of the Royal Hibernian Academy, and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Hardwicke (see No 124). Comerford’s works in the 1802 exhibition were praised in the Dublin Evening Post on 11 and 17 May 1802, and Comerford was referred to as “bursting at once from provincial retirement into the full blaze of public notice.”[26] The Dublin Evening Post described his miniature of Hardwicke as “one of the most exquisite portraits.”[27]

By then, Comerford had been induced by George Chinnery to settle permanently in Dublin, and he initially lived with the Chinnery family at 27 Dame Street, Dublin.[28]

Portrait of Robert Emmet

In 1803, Comerford was commissioned to paint his famous portrait of the Irish rebel leader Robert Emmet.

Comerford’s surviving portrait of Emmet (see No 47 below) is one of only three original images of Emmet that were made at his trial in the Green Street Courthouse, Dublin, on 19 September 1803. The other two are by Henry Brocas, who was commissioned by Dublin Castle, and James Petrie, who sketched Emmet’s upper body and head – all that could be seen above the dock.[29]

Comerford, who was the third artist in court to record Emmet’s final hours, was commissioned by the Emmet family. His preliminary pencil sketches became the basis for his sensitive watercolour on ivory miniature now in the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin. It bears a very close resemblance to the Brocas drawing and, like it, is a left-side profile.[30]

Criminal conversation

Around 1806, or perhaps earlier, Comerford painted a miniature portrait of Sir John Piers, 6th Baronet, of Tristernagh Abbey, Westmeath (see No 98 below), which became part of the evidence in a celebrated court action in which there were public allegations of criminal conversation, seduction and adultery.[31]

This miniature, set in a locket, figured in the celebrated criminal conversation case taken by Lord Cloncurry against Sir John Piers in February 1807. Piers went into hiding in the Isle of Man before the case was heard by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Manners, who subsequently sat for Comerford in 1810 (see No 109). Cloncurry’s action was successful, but he became a figure of public ridicule, and the marriage finally ended in divorce in 1811.[32]

Further returns to Kilkenny

In 1808, John Comerford returned to Kilkenny once again. In his native city, he executed eleven portraits in all of local politicians, actors and others involved in the Kilkenny Private Theatre, including: Sir Richard Power of Kilfane (see No 100), founder of the Kilkenny Theatre; Henry Grattan (1746-1820) (see No 56), the MP who gave his name to “Grattan’s Parliament”; the poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852) (see No 84); along with WW Beecher (No 9), Humphrey Butler (see Nos 16-17), James Corry (No 39), John Crampton (No 40), John Lyster (No 77), George Routh (No 103), Miss Smith (No 107) and Miss Walstein (No 118).[33]

These portraits, which Strickland says were probably drawings, were subsequently engraved in stipple for The Private Theatre of Kilkenny, a book published in 1825.[34]

During that same visit to Kilkenny in 1808 John Comerford was a guest once again of James and Anne Comerford, and painted each of them for the third recorded time. It may have been during this visit that he also painted his miniature portrait of James Comerford’s nephew, James Comerford (1725-1825) of Newtownbarry, Co Wexford (see No 34).[35] Later that year (1808), James Comerford of the Butterslip, who had been John Comerford’s host on so many previous return visits to his native city, died in Kilkenny.

Colleagues and pupils

An exhibition in Dublin in 1810 included Comerford’s miniature portraits of Lord Chancellor of Ireland, Lord Manners (see No 109), and Mrs Frances Ponsonby (see No 99).[36]

In 1811, Comerford was elected to the committee of the Irish Society of Artists, and subsequently became the vice-president of society.[37] In 1812, he exhibited in Dublin once again, when his works included miniatures of Lord Ikerrin (later Earl of Carrick) (see No 22), Lady Lismore (see No 91) and Judge Edward Mayne (see No 83).[38] He exhibited in Dublin once again in 1813, when his works included miniatures of General Sir John Hope (see No 65) and his wife Mary (see No 66), who died that year, the banker and politician John La Touche (see No 73), Augustus FitzGerald, 3rd Duke of Leinster (see No 49), and William Saurin, Attorney-General of Ireland (see No 105).[39]

Around this time, Comerford moved from 27 Dame Street, Dublin, where he had lived with George Chinnery and his family, to 2 Leinster Street in 1815,[40] or 1817.[41]

Meanwhile, John Comerford strongly opposed the formation of an academy for artists in Ireland. Having had no academic training himself, he was opposed to the idea of schools for the teaching and training of artists, and argued that the true way to proceed was to go direct to nature and to learn for oneself, as had been his experience.[42]

He wrote: “Those who encouraged young men to become artists were doing a real and substantial injury to society; they were destroying very excellent carpenters, smiths and housepainters, and creating a class of unfortunates who would never be capable of doing any good for either themselves or others.”[43]

Strickland also offers the opinion that Comerford may have feared that an academy would threaten the monopoly he already enjoyed “and the raising up of successful rivals to those for whom the scanty patronage in Ireland was already insufficient.”[44]

Comerford became the champion of those artists who opposed the proposed academy, addressing long and elaborate letters to the Chief Secretary, Charles Grant. However, Comerford was unsuccessful in his opposition, he gave up the contest, and the Royal Hibernian Academy was granted a royal charter in 1823.[45]

After the charter was granted, Comerford continued in his opposition to the formation of the RHA and never joined the academy, holding aloof from its exhibitions. Nevertheless, he remained a close friend of many of the key and influential figures in those early years of the academy, and William Ashford, who became President of the RHA, had sat for Comerford in 1802 (see Nos 2 and 3). [46]

Comerford continued to paint, and one of his best-known portraits from this period was of Daniel O’Connell (No 93), drawn in 1824, engraved in stipple by T. Heaphy, and published in London in 1825. Comerford placed a notice in the Freeman’s Journal on 1 January 1825 announcing that he had just finished his portrait of Daniel O’Connell, “which for likeness and other important qualities is considered by all who have seen it one of the very best of his works. He has engaged an eminent English artist to engrave this picture; and in order to stimulate him to the utmost possible exertion of his abilities and ensure the greatest possible expedition consistent with high finishing, he has agreed to pay him full double the usual price.”[47]

Comerford was a sociable and outgoing person, and he numbered among his friends many of his contemporary, distinguished artists, including: Professor Thomas James Mulvany (1779-1845), who was influential in obtaining the charter for the Royal Hibernian Academy and became one of the first academicians; the Italian landscape artist Gaspare Gabrielli, who worked in Ireland; Vincent Waldré (ca 1742-1814), also an Italian landscape artist; James Gandon (1742-1823) (see No 50), the leading architect of the day in Dublin; the sculptor Smyth (1749-1812); the first President of the Royal Hibernian Academy, William Ashford (1746-1824) (see Nos 2 and 3); and the Waterford-born landscape artist, Thomas Sautelle Roberts (ca 1760-1826).[48]

Sautelle Roberts, a younger son of John Roberts – architect of the two cathedrals in Waterford – had also studied at the drawing schools of the Dublin Society. Comerford sometimes collaborated with Roberts on his larger landscape paintings. Some of his contributions to the work of Roberts have been identified in a View of Powerscourt, with a Portrait of Captain Taylor of the Engineers (No 110), and a View in the Valley of Glencree, with a Portrait of the Earl of Hardwicke, Lord Lieutenant (No 125) exhibited in Dublin in 1802.[49]

The miniaturist Samuel Lover (1797-1868), who met Comerford in the early 1820s, became one of his pupils, and was greatly influenced by Comerford, who encouraged him early in his career to paint miniatures.[50] Comerford’s other students included John Doyle (1797-1868), the cartoonist and caricaturist known as ‘HB’ and remembered also as the grandfather of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; and Thomas Clement Thompson RHA (ca 1779-1857).[51]

Final years

For many years, John Comerford was at the head of the field of miniature painting in his profession in Ireland. By steady persistency in his work, he accumulated a considerable fortune. However, in his later years, he worked little, and spent more time in entertaining his friends, especially artists among whom he was popular and well-liked.[52]

While he was visiting his friends James Gandon and the artist TJ Mulvany in Lucan, Co Dublin, in 1829, Comerford suffered an apoplectic seizure. However, his life was saved by Dr Fergusson of Leixlip, Co Kildare, and he continued his career for another three years.[53]

Shortly before his death, Comerford moved to 28 Blessington Street, Dublin. There, he suffered yet another apoplectic seizure, and he died there on 25 January 1832, aged about 70 to 72.[54]

His friend and contemporary Mulvany said that Comerford has “a sufficiently prudent turn of mind to amass a very handsome fortune,” which Mulvany estimated at £16,000. Comerford was survived by his only daughter, Mary, and he left her a bequest of £500 a year.[55]

Portraits by John Comerford

Comerford’s patrons and sitters represented some of the most prominent figures in Irish society at the time, including key figures from the government, the judiciary, and ecclesiastical, political, social, cultural and artistic life. They included James Butler, 19th Earl and 1st Marquess of Ormonde, Lord Cornwallis, Lord Charlemont, the Earl of Bristol (Bishop of Derry), Thomas Braughall, Dr Edward Walsh, and James and Anne Comerford of the Butterslip, Kilkenny.

Strickland, lists many of Comerford’s numerous portraits, along with engravings after his works, says his miniatures are strongly modelled and full of character, but that they lack grace and refinement, and that he was more successful with men than with women. Strickland.[56]

However, Strickland omitted many of Comerford’s best-known works, including his portrait of Robert Emmet in the dock in 1803. Since Strickland’s description of John Comerford’s work over 100 years ago in 1903, no further comprehensive list of his works and engravings of his works has been compiled.

Drawing on Strickland’s listing, recent exhibitions and accompanying catalogues, over 160 of Comerford’s portraits and engravings of his works can be listed as follows:

1, A gentleman called Mr Ardington, a miniature portrait, 1804. Exhibited with the Comerford Collection in Dublin, 2009.[57]

2, William Ashford (1746-1824), PRHA, drawing, Dublin exhibition, 1802. Engraved in stipple by T. Nugent and “published by the Directors of the British School, 2 Berners Street [London], 1803.” Ashford was the first President of the Royal Hibernian Academy. This drawing later belonged to Lieutenant-General Brydges Henniker.[58]

3, William Ashford (1746-1824), PRHA, miniature portrait. [C. De Groot, dealer, Liffey Street, Dublin, 1912.] This miniature belonged to the artist’s family, and later passed to William Ashford Bell.[59]

4, Joseph Atkinson, of Milford, Co Dublin. Engraved by James Heath.[60]

5, Peter Atkinson, of Lower Bridge Street, Dublin; posthumous miniature, dated 1817; later in the National Gallery of Ireland.[61]

6, John Ball of Eccles Street, Dublin, silk manufacturer. Oil painting. Ball was the father of Judge Nicholas Ball. This portrait was later reproduced in Revd W Ball-Wright, Ball Family Records.[62]

7, John Ball, Serjeant-at-Law, drawing. Engraved in stipple by James Heath for Barrington’s Historic Memoirs. Later owned by Lord Monteagle.[63]

8, Sir Jonah Barrington (1760-1834), a drawing after HD Hamilton, engraved in stipple by James Heath for Barrington’s Historic Memoirs. Later owned by Lord Monteagle.[64]

9, WW Beecher, engraved in stipple for the Kilkenny Private Theatre.[65]

10, John Lord de Blacquiere, drawing, engraved in stipple by J. Heath in Barrington’s Historic Memoirs. Later owned by Lord Monteagle.[66]

11, Thomas Braughall, oil picture. Engraved by J. Martyn in the Hibernian Magazine for June 1803. Later owned by the Royal Dublin Society.[67]

12, Mr Burgoyne, miniature, painted in 1802. Lent by Charles Bowyer to South Kensington in 1865, and to Wrexham in 1876. [68]

13, Charles Kendal Bushe (1767-1843), Solicitor-General, a miniature portrait.[69] Bushe, a famous orator who was known as “the incorruptible,” had been MP for Callan, Co Kilkenny (1797-1800), and he opposed the Act of Union. He was Solicitor General for Ireland (1805-1822) when this miniature portrait was painted by Comerford, and then Chief Justice of Ireland (1822-1841).

14, Charles Kendal Bushe, Solicitor-General, a drawing from Comerford’s miniature, engraved in stipple by James Heath for Barrington’s Historic Memoirs. Later owned by Lord Monteagle.[70]

15, Grace Louisa Butler (née Staples), Marchioness of Ormonde, oil on canvas, 25 x 19 cm (10” x 8”). Grace Louisa (1779-1860) was the wife of James Butler (1774-1838), 1st Marquess of Ormonde (see Nos 19-22 below), who also sat for Comerford. This small portrait is copied from an earlier three-quarter-length portrait of the sitter by John Saunders (1750-1825). The portrait was purchased for the Ormonde Picture Collection from James Adams & Son at the Wicklow Sale, 16 November 1994.[71]

16, Humphrey Butler. Drawing. engraved in stipple by James Heath in Barrington’s Historic Memoirs. [72]

17, Humphrey Butler. Perhaps the same drawing as the previous one. Engraved for the Kilkenny Private Theatre.[73]

18, James Wandesforde Butler (1774-1838), 1st Marquess of Ormonde and 19th Earl of Ormonde (above), oil on canvas, 25 x 19 cm (10” x 8”), ca 1808, inscribed on stretcher: “James Wandesford Butler, Marquess of Ormonde p. Comerford.” Butler was the 19th Earl of Ormond, the 1st Marquess of Ormonde under the third creation, and MP for Kilkenny (1801-1820). This small, half-length portrait is a variant on the full-length portrait of the sitter by John Saunders (1750-1825). Costume details are similar to those of the large-scale portrait, but in this portrait Comerford inserted a plinth in the foreground. An engraving by Charles Parker (see No 18) is close to this portrait, although the image has not been reversed. The portrait was purchased for the Ormonde Picture Collection from James Adams & Son at the Wicklow Sale on 16 November 1994.[74] The discovery and purchase of this portrait by John Comerford has helped to identify the later work by John Saunders (1750-1825), previously identified as a portrait of Walter Butler.[75]

19, James Wandesford Butler, 1st Marquess of Ormonde engraved by Charles Parker for Jerdan’s The National Portrait Gallery, volume III (1830).[76]

20, James Butler, 1st Marquess of Ormonde, a miniature portrait engraved by R. Grave in Memoirs of the Family of Grace (1823).[77]

21, James Butler, 1st Marquess of Ormond, miniature exhibited in Kilkenny in 1999 and in Dublin in 2009.[78]

22, Somerset Butler (1779-1838), Viscount Ikerrin and later 3rd Earl of Carrick, a miniature exhibited in Dublin in 1812.[79]

23, Angelica Catalani (1780-1849), engraved in stipple by L. Schiavonetti.[80] Catalani was an Italian opera singer, and as a prima donna in England she was without rival for many years.

24, Angelica Catalani, pencil sketch, later owned by WG Strickland.[81]

25, Mr Cave, a miniature, later owned by WT Kirkpatrick of Donacomper, Co Kildare.[82]

26, Anne Caulfeild, née Bermingham (ca 1780-1876), Countess of Charlemont, a miniature, lent to the Burlington Fine Arts Club by Jeffrey Whitehead in 1887.[83]

27, James Caulfeild (1728-1799), Earl of Charlemont, pencil drawing after H. Hone, engraved in stipple by James Heath for Barrington’s Historic Memoirs. Later owned by Lord Monteagle.[84] Charlemont was the president of the Volunteer Convention held in Dublin in 1783, and was politically aligned with Henry Flood (see No 53 below) and Henry Grattan (see No 56). He was well-known for his love of classical art and culture and spent nine years on the Grand Tour in Italy, Greece, Turkey and Egypt. He employed the Scottish architect Sir William Chambers to remodel Marino House, to design Charlemont House (now the Municipal Art Gallery, Dublin), and to design the Casino at Marino, a unique neo-classical garden pavilion. He was the first President of the Royal Irish Academy and an early member of the Royal Dublin Society.

28, 29 and 30, Anne (Langton) Comerford (above), of the Langton House, the Butterslip, Kilkenny, wife of James Comerford (Nos 31-33). James and Anne Comerford were painted by John Comerford (ca 1770-1832), when he was their guest in 1794. They were painted by him again in 1797 and 1808.[85] For the provenance of these portraits, see the next entry.

31, 32 and 33, James Comerford (above) of the Langton House, the Butterslip, Kilkenny, husband of Anne (Langton) Comerford (Nos 28-30). James and Anne Comerford were painted by John Comerford (ca 1770-1832), when he was their guest in 1794. They were painted by him again in 1797 and 1808. These portraits passed to their son, Michael Comerford (1764-1851). When he died in 1851, the Langton House in the Butterslip and the portraits of James and Anne Comerford passed to his grand-nephew, Father Edmund Madden (ca 1818-1865). The portraits were then inherited James Comerford Madden, who moved to Kogarah, near Sydney. The Revd Edmund Langton Hayburn (1916-2006) of Freemount, California, contributed to the Old Kilkenny Review, the Journal of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society (1974, 1984), and presented copies of the two of these Comerford portraits, one each of Anne and James, to the Kilkenny Archaeological Society.[86]

34, James Comerford (1775-1825) (above), of Newtownbarry (Bunclody), Co Wexford, a miniature portrait.[87] Comerford was a nephew of James Comerford (Nos 31-33) of the Langton House, the Butterslip, Kilkenny, and was probably painted by John Comerford before the elder James Comerford died in 1808.


35, John Comerford (1770-1832) (above), self-portrait by the artist, exhibited in Kilkenny in 1999.[88]

36, William Coppinger (1753-1830), Roman Catholic Bishop of Cloyne and Ross (1791-1830), a chalk drawing, engraved in stipple by Charles Rolls. Later in the National Gallery of Ireland.[89]

37, Charles Cornwallis (1738-1805), Marquess Cornwallis, a miniature.[90] Cornwallis was Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland (1798-1801), and is remembered particularly for his role in suppressing the 1798 Rising.

38, Charles Cornwallis, Marquess Cornwallis, a drawing from Comerford’s miniature, engraved in stipple by James Heath for Barrington’s Historic Memoirs. Later owned by Lord Monteagle.[91]

39, James Corry, engraved in stipple for the Kilkenny Private Theatre.[92]

40, John Crampton, engraved in stipple for the Kilkenny Private Theatre.[93]


41, John Philpot Curran (1750-1817) (above), a miniature portrait, watercolour on ivory, 3¼” x 2¾” (8.25 x 4.5 cm), inscribed verso. Provenance: collection of Terence de Vere White by descent. Placed in Irish Art Auction sale by de Veres irish Auction Rooms, 22 May 2012, The Berkeley Court Hotel, Lansdowne Road, Dublin 4. Pre-sale estimate: €800-€1,200.copied in a drawing, engraved in stipple by James Heath for Barrington’s Historic Memoirs. [94] Curran was an Irish orator, politician and wit, the son of James and Sarah Curran. He was an MP in the pre-Union parliament, and a political ally of Henry Grattan, although he defended several United Irishmen in prominent trials in the 1790s, including the Revd. William Jackson, Archibald Hamilton Rowan, Wolfe Tone, Napper Tandy, the Sheares Brothers, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, William Orr and William Drennan.

42, Mrs Dobbyn, a portrait in oils, later in the National Gallery of Ireland.[95]

43, Lady Domville (née Helena Sarah Trench), undated miniature portrait. Exhibited with the Comerford Collection in Dublin, 2009.[96] In 1815, she married Sir Compton Domville, of Heywood, Ballinakill, Co Laois, and Templeogue House and Santry, Co Dublin. She died in 1859.

44, William Downes (1750-1826), Lord Downes, a miniature, exhibited at the Royal Dublin Society (1825), at the Dublin exhibition (1872) by Mrs Webber, and at the Guildhall, London (1904), by WD Webber; engraved in mezzotint by T. Lupton.[97] Downes had been Lord Chief Justice of Ireland (1803-1822).

45, Dr Patrick Duignean, a drawing, 1810, engraved in stipple by James Heath for Barrington’s Historic Memoirs. [98]

46, John Egan, KC, a drawing, 1811, engraved in stipple by James Heath in 1811 for Barrington’s Historic Memoirs. Later owned by Lord Monteagle.[99]

47, Robert Emmet (above), a miniature portrait in watercolours on ivory, mow in the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland. This portrait of the rebel leader commissioned by the Emmet family during the trial the Irish rebel leader in the Green Street Courthouse, Dublin, on 19 September 1803. Comerford’s surviving portrait of Emmet is one of only three original images of Emmet made at that trial. Comerford’s preliminary pencil sketches became the basis for his sensitive watercolour on ivory miniature now in the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin. It bears a very close resemblance to the Brocas drawing and, like it, is a left-side profile.[100]

48, George Ensor, a drawing, engraved by H. Meyer.[101]

49, Augustus Frederick FitzGerald (1791-1874), 3rd Duke of Leinster, a miniature prtrait, dated 1813 and exhibited in Dublin that year. This portrait was later owned by the Duke of Leinster, of Carton House, Co Kildare. The Duke of Leinster was a nephew of the revolutionary leader, Lord Edward FitzGerald.[102]

50, The Right Hon John FitzGerald, a drawing, engraved in stipple by James Heath for Barrington’s Historic Memoirs. Later owned by Lord Monteagle.[103]

51, John FitzGibbon (1749-1802), 1st Earl of Clare, drawing, engraved in stipple by James Heath for Barrington’s Historic Memoirs. Later owned by Lord Monteagle.[104] Clare was Attorney-General and Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

52, William Fletcher (1796-1845), a miniature portrait, with Fletcher in his college dress, ca 1814. Lent to the South Kensington exhibition (1865) by WFH Fletcher.[105]

53, Henry Flood (1732-1791), the Kilkenny MP and friend of Henry Grattan. Flood was dead by then, and this was a drawing after B. Stoker, engraved in stipple by James Heath for Barrington’s Historic Memoirs. Later owned by Lord Monteagle.[106]

54, James Gandon (1743-1823), a drawing, engraved in stipple by H. Meyer. Comerford, who was a friend of Gandon, visited him regularly at his home in Lucan, where he suffered one of the apoplectic seizures that led to his death. Gandon was the leading Irish architect of the day, best known for the Custom House, the Four Courts, his extension to the House of Lord, and the King’s Inns in Dublin, and Emo Court in Co Laois. [107]

55, Thomas Gold, drawing, engraved in stipple by James Heath for Barrington’s Historic Memoirs.[108]

56, Henry Grattan (1746-1820), the MP who gave his name to “Grattan’s Parliament,” engraved in stipple for the Kilkenny Private Theatre.[109]

57, Captain Grogan (?), a portrait of a gentleman, said to be Captain Grogan, oil on canvas, 76 x 63.2 cm (30” x 25”), auctioned at the Irish Art Sale in the James Adam Salesroom, Dublin, 26 May 2004.[110]

58, Charles Hamilton of Hamwood, Dunboyne, Co Meath, a miniature, later owned by Charles R. Hamilton of Hamwood. Hamilton married Caroline (Marianne Caroline) Tighe (1777-1861), daughter of William and Sarah Tighe of Woodstock, Co Kilkenny (see No 114 below).[111]

59, Eleanor Hamilton, née Stuart, wife of James H. Hamilton, of Woodbrook, engraved in Memoirs of the Family of Grace (1823).[112]

60, James H. Hamilton, of Woodbrook, engraved in Memoirs of the Family of Grace (1823).[113]

61, Mrs Julia Hamilton, née Tisdall, wife of Alexander Hamilton, KC, miniature, later owned by Mrs Deane-Freeman of Vesey Place, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin.[114]

62, Mrs Maria Hamilton, miniature, owned by Hugh Stuart Moore in 1903.[115]

63, William Parnell Hayes (1780-1821), of Avondale, Co Wicklow, a chalk drawing, later owned by the National Gallery of Ireland.[116] Hayes was MP for Co Wicklow and the grandfather of Charles Stewart Parnell.

64, Frederick Hervey (1730-1803), the 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry (1768-1803). This portrait was later owned by Sir Hervey Bruce, Bt.[117]

65, Sir John Hope (1765-1836), commander of the forces, miniature, exhibited in Dublin in 1813.[118] His wife was also painted by John Comerford (see No 66).

66, Mary, Lady Hope (née Scott) (died 19 March 1813), wife of Sir John Hope (No 65). This miniature was exhibited in Dublin in 1813, the year in which she died.[119]

67, Gustavus Hume, state surgeon, engraved in stipple by John Carver.[120] Hume had a successful career as a surgeon, but was also a property developer in Dublin, building houses in Ely Place and Hume Street, to which he gave his name.

68, James Joyce, great-grandfather of the Irish writer, James Joyce. This portrait is one of five family portraits identified by Joyce in a letter to Frank Budgen, dated 7 May 1933, and left behind when James Joyce and Nora Barnacle left their apartment at 34 rue de Vignes in October 1939.[121]

69, James Joyce as a boy, grandfather of the Irish writer, James Joyce. This portrait is one of five family portraits identified by Joyce in a letter to Frank Budgen, dated 7 May 1933, and left behind when James Joyce and Nora Barnacle left their apartment at 34 rue de Vignes in October 1939.[122]

70, James Joyce as a man, grandfather of the Irish writer, James Joyce. This portrait is one of five family portraits identified by Joyce in a letter to Frank Budgen, dated 7 May 1933, and left behind when James Joyce and Nora Barnacle left their apartment at 34 rue de Vignes in October 1939.[123]

71, Jane Louisa Jebb, wife of R. Jebb, Justice of the King’s Bench, engraved in stipple by R. Cooper, 1824, private plate.[124]

72, John Keogh, of Mount Jerome, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, a miniature portrait. This work was later owned by Captain J. Wiseman Keogh of Ballyfarnon, Co Sligo.[125]

73, John La Touche (1775-1820), miniature, exhibited in Dublin in 1813.[126] La Touche was one of the leading bankers of the day and a Whig MP.

74, Dr John Law (above) of Muckamore Abbey, facing right wearing a grey jacket and waist coat with white cravat, oval portrait miniature on ivory; size, 2 &;; 5/8 ins; ca 1820; gilt gesso frame, on sale by Silver Shop Dublin (2009), €1,495.

75, Charles Lennox (1791-1860), 5th Duke of Richmond. Richmond, who was educated at Trinity College Dublin, was a brother of Lady Sarah Lennox (No 76) and a cousin of the Duke of Leinster (No 49), who both sat for John Comerford. This portrait was painted before 1819, while Richmond was Earl of March, and was engraved in stipple by A Cardon.[127]

76, Lady Sarah Lennox (1794-1873), second daughter of Charles Lennox (1764-1819), 4th Duke of Richmond, a miniature. This portrait was lent to the South Kensington Museum by the Duke of Richmond for an exhibition in 1865, and was owned by the Duke of Richmond a year later in 1903.[128] Lady Sarah Lennox married General Sir Peregrine Maitland, while her sister, Lady Louisa, who was a god-daughter of the Duke of Wellington, married William Frederick Fownes Tighe of Woodstock, Co Kilkenny (see Nos 111-114 below).

77, John Lyster, engraved in stipple for the Kilkenny Private Theatre.[129]

78, Ann McCann, great-grandmother of the Irish writer, James Joyce. This portrait is one of five family portraits identified by Joyce in a letter to Frank Budgen, dated 7 May 1933, and left behind when James Joyce and Nora Barnacle left their apartment at 34 rue de Vignes in October 1939.[130]

79, John Eccles Madden, a miniature later owned by Colonel Laynard in 1903.[131]

80, Judge Walter Maguire, painted in Dublin in 1818 and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Caffrey cites this portrait as a representative example of Comerford’s miniature style of portrait.[132]

81, Alexander Mansfield, when he was a boy. This oil painting was later owned by George Mansfield, DL.[133]

82, Walter Mansfield, when he was a boy. This oil painting was later owned by George Mansfield, DL. On the back of the canvas is a sketch in monochrome of a small, full-length figure, seated in a chair.[134]

83, Edward Mayne (1756-1829), Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. This miniature was exhibited in Dublin in 1812, and engraved by A. Cardon.[135]

84, Thomas Moore (1779-1852), the Irish poet and songwriter, engraved in stipple for the Kilkenny Private Theatre.[136]

85, Sydney Lady Morgan (1776-1859), when she was Miss Owenson, playing on the harp. This was engraved for S. Freeman as the frontispiece to The Wild Irish Girl (1846).[137] Lady Morgan, wife of the surgeon Sir Thomas Morgan, was a leading novelist and poet of the 19th century; her most controversial work was The Wild Irish Girl, first published in 1806.

86, Catherine Morres (née White), Viscountess Frankfort de Montmorency (d. 1851). Oil on canvas, 75 x 63 cm (30” x 25”), 1820, inscribed on the back of the canvas: “Catherine Morres, 1820, of Castle Morres, Co Kilkenny, 1st Viscountess Frankfort de Montmorency. John Comerford pinxit.” She is portrayed as an older woman wearing a large muslin bonnet of a type that was fashionable and worn by married ladies during the early years of the 19th century – a similar bonnet is worn by Anne Comerford in her portrait by John Comerford (see Nos 28-30 above). This miniature portrait was purchased in 1989 from a private source for the Kilkenny Castle Collection. Lady Frankfort was a daughter of George White of Castlebellingham, Co Louth. Her husband’s family changed their name from Morres to de Montmorency in 1815, claiming descent from the Norman Geoffrey de Marisco. This genealogical claim was ridiculed in these dismissive words: “This cock and bull pedigree or genealogical nightmare, which for sheer topsy-turveydom, has, I venture to assert, never been surpassed.”[138]

87, Charles Roper Mosely (above), 1790, the artist’s uncle, wearing the uniform of the 17th Foot, scarlet coat, silver lace, black stock and frilled white cravat (incl. copy of a report on the miniature), Miniature portrait, w/wc on ivory; 2.8 x 0 in. / 7.1 x 0 cm, signed. Sold at auction by Bonhams & Brooks, Knightsbridge, London, on 30 October 2001 (Lot 394).[139]

88, LWN, a gentleman with the initials LWN, ca 1795 (above). This striking portrait miniature is of a gentleman, possibly a cleric, with white hair and piercing blue eyes, wearing a black coat, black vest, and white collar, posing with his hand tucked into his vest. The background is an atmospheric dawn sky with clouds. The painting is set in the original gold pendant frame, the reverse with a glazed aperture holding the gold monogram LWN on a lock of blond hair and set on opalescent glass.[140]

89, “Mrs Newcomen, mother of the Countess of Eglinton.” This miniature was exhibited in Dublin in 1872 by C. Brian.[141] The sitter’s daughter, Theresa Newcomen, only became the Countess of Eglinton when she married her second husband in 1841, nine years after John Comerford’s death, so this description by Brian for the 1872 exhibition is a polite description of Harriett Holland, who was the mistress of Thomas Newcomen, 2nd Viscount Newcomen.

90, Cornelius O’Callaghan (1775-1857), 1st Viscount Lismore and 2nd Baron Lismore of Shanbally, Co Tipperary, a miniature portrait, 1808, exhibited in Dublin in 2009 with the Comerford Collection. The caption on the frame reads: “Viscount Lismore, 1808, Comerford pinxit.” He married Lady Eleanor Butler, daughter of John Butler, 17th Earl of Ormonde, on 11 August 1808. Lord and Lady Lismore were divorced in 1826.[142]


91, Eleanor O’Callaghan (nee Lady Eleanor Butler), Viscountess Lismore (above), in a Van Dyck dress. This miniature portrait was exhibited in Dublin in 1812. Oval, 72mm (2 13/16in) high. Provenance: By Family Descent. Sold Bonham’s in Knightsbridge for £375, inccluding premium.[143]

Lady Lismore, the former Lady Eleanor Butler, was the only daughter and eldest child of John Butler (1740-1795), 17th Earl of Ormonde, and Lady Frances ‘Anne’ Susan Elizabeth Wandesforde (d. 1830). She married Cornelius O’Callaghan, 1st Viscount Lismore of Shanbally (1775-1857), son of Cornelius O’Callaghan, 1st Baron Lismore and Frances Ponsonby, in 1808, four years before this miniature was painted by Comerford, but they were divorced in 1826. They had four children: William Frederick (d. 1836) Anne Maria Louisa (d. 1867), Cornelius (1809-1849) and George Ponsonby O’Callaghan, 2nd Viscount Lismore (1815-1898).

In this portrait by John Comerford, she is wearing a white dress and gold hoop earring, her raven hair is cropped short. Gilt-mounted on rectangular papier-mâché frame with verre églomisé border, the reverse inscribed: “Painted by Comerford Dublin/ 1802/ Lady Elinor Butler / She married Lord Lismore/ who was father of Lord Lismore / who died Nov. 1890 / without issue/ & left his property to the Ladies Butler / daughters of the Marquis of Ormonde / Elinor Butler / daughter of John Earl of Ormonde / and Anne Wandesford / his Wife. died Nov 1859.”

It is interesting that the portraits of this divorced couple should have found their ways into separate collections 200 years later. A miniature portrait of her brother, James Wandesford Butler (1777-1838), 1st Marquess of Ormonde, was also auctioned by Bonham’s in Knightsbridge.

92, Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847), at the age of 25. This miniature, which dates from 1800 or 1801, was exhibited in Dublin in 1875 by Mrs Fitzsimon.[144]

93, Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847), drawn in 1824, engraved in stipple by T. Heaphy, and published in London in 1825.[145]

94, Ellen O’Connell, grandmother of the Irish writer, James Joyce. She was said to be from the same family as Daniel O’Connell. This portrait is one of five family portraits identified by Joyce in a letter to Frank Budgen, dated 7 May 1933, and left behind when James Joyce and Nora Barnacle left their apartment at 34 rue de Vignes in October 1939. [146]

95, Robert Owen, a lithograph. “A sketch by J. Comerford. Taken at the request of A.U.R.”[147]

96, J. Cleeve Parsons, a miniature exhibited in Dublin in 1875 by John Robert Parsons.[148]

97, Sir Lawrence Parsons (1758-1841), 2nd Earl of Rosse (above), a drawing, 1810, engraved in stipple by James Heath for Barrington’s Historic Memoirs. This drawing was later in Lord Monteagle’s collection.[149]

98, Sir John Piers, a miniature. This miniature portrait, set in a locket and painted by John Comerford in 1806 or earlier, figured in the celebrated criminal conversation case taken by Lord Cloncurry against Sir John Piers in February 1807. Piers went into hiding in the Isle of Man before the case was heard by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Manners, who subsequently sat for Comerford in 1810 (see No 109). Cloncurry sued successfully but became a figure of public ridicule, and the marriage finally ended in divorce in 1811.[150]

99, Mrs Frances Ponsonby (née Staples), a miniature exhibited in Dublin in 1810.[151] Frances Staples married her first cousin, the Right Revd Richard Ponsonby (1772-1853), in 1804. At the time of this painting in 1810, her husband was the Precentor of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. He became Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, in 1817. Later, he was Bishop of Killaloe and Kilfenora (1828-1831), Bishop of Derry (1831-1834), and Bishop of Derry and Raphoe (1834-1853). Mrs Ponsonby died in 1858.

100, Sir Richard Power of Kilfane, engraved in stipple for the Kilkenny Private Theatre (1825).[152] In 1902, the brothers Sir Richard and Sir John Power of Kilfane founded the theatre, which continued to operate until 1819.

101, Thomas Spring Rice (1790-1866), 1st Lord Monteagle, drawing, engraved in stipple by R. Cooper for the Dublin and London Magazine (1825).[153] A Whig politician, Spring Rice was MP for Limerick (1820-1832) and for Cambridge (1832-1839), and went on to become Secretary to the Treasury (1830-1834), Chancellor of the Exchequer (1835-1839) and Speaker of the House of Commons, before becoming a peer in 1839. His son, Thomas Spring Rice, 2nd Lord Monteagle, became the most notable collector of John Comerford’s works.

102, Elizabeth Rothe, a miniature portrait. Exhibited with the Comerford Collection in Dublin, 2009. the catalogue stated her ancestor built Rothe House, Kilkenny.[154]

103, George Routh, engraved in stipple for the Kilkenny Private Theatre.[155]

104, Archibald Hamilton Rowan (1751-1834), “Drawn from nature on stone, 1822.” R. Cooper did a stipple engraving of this portrait in 1825, now in the archive collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London, and JH Lynch did a smaller-sized lithograph from the same portrait in 1843. A head, sketch in crayons, was sent to the Royal Dublin Society Exhibition in 1858 by Peter Smith.[156] Rowan was a founding member of the United Irishmen, and a leading figure in the events surrounding the 1798 Rising, and returned from exile to Ireland in 1806.

105, William Saurin (born 1757), Attorney-General of Ireland (1807-1822). This miniature was exhibited in Dublin in 1813.[157] His brother, the Right Revd James Saurin (1759-1842), was Bishop of Dromore (1819-1842).

106, Maria, Lady Shaw (née Wilkinson). She was the daughter and heiress of Abraham Wilkinson, and when she married Sir Robert Shaw (1774-1849) of Terenure House, Dublin, in 1796, her dowry included the neighbouring Bushy Park. Lady Shaw died in 1831. This miniature was later owned by Sir Frederick Shaw (1858-1927), 5th Bt, of Bushy Park, Terenure, Dublin.[158]

107, Miss Smith, engraved in stipple for the Kilkenny Private Theatre.[159]

108, Edward Smyth (1749-1812), sculptor, undated miniature portrait. Exhibited with the Comerford Collection in Dublin, 2009. This drawing was engraved in stipple H. Meyer. The head on Woodhouse’s medal to Smyth was taken from this drawing by Comerford.[160] Smyth worked with the architect James Gandon (see No 55) on most of his major projects, including the Four Courts, the House of Lords and the King’s Inns in Dublin, and was also employed by the architect Francis Johnson, carving the heads on the exterior of Johnson’s Chapel Royal in Dublin Castle until his death in 1812. Smyth was the first Master of the Dublin Society School of Modeling and Sculpture.

109, Thomas Manners-Sutton (1756-1842), 1st Lord Manners, Lord Chancellor of Ireland (1807-1827).[161] This miniature was exhibited in Dublin in 1810 and engraved by A. Cardon in 1811.

110, Captain Taylor of the Engineers, a figure by Comerford in Sautelle Roberts, A View of Powerscourt, with a Portrait of Captain Taylor of the Engineers.[162]

111, Mary Tighe (Mrs Henry Tighe, née Blanchford, 1772-1810, above), a miniature, plaster-colour portrait, dating from 1794 or 1795, later owned by the Earl of Mayo and now in the National Portrait Gallery, London.[163] An Irish poet known by the pseudonym Psyche, she was the daughter of the Revd William Blachford. In 1793, she married her cousin, Henry Tighe, of Woodstock, Co Kilkenny. She died on 24 March 1810, at Woodstock, Co Kilkenny, and was buried at Inistioge. Her poem Psyche or the Legend of Love was printed privately in 1805 and published posthumously in 1811 with other poems. It is founded on the story as told by Apuleius, and is written in the style of Edmund Spenser. The poem had many admirers and received high praise in the Quarterly Review (May 1811).

112, Mary Tighe (Mrs Henry Tighe, née Blanchford, 1772-1810), a miniature portrait (above), later owned by Edward Kendrick Tighe (1862-1917), who sold Woodstock, Co Kilkenny, in 1913.[164] This miniature by John Comerford was a copy of the portrait by G Romney and was engraved by Scriven. Henry Tighe refused to pay for Romney’s portrait of Mary Tighe, and it was then bought by Henry Grattan, the parliamentarian, who was staying at Rossanagh. The portrait was later owned by Sir Henry Grattan Bellew of Tinnehinch. The white turban was omitted by John Comerford in the miniature, which was engraved by Caroline Watson as the frontispiece for a publication of Poems by Pschye.[165]

113, Sarah Tighe (Mrs William Tighe, née Fownes, 1743-1820), a miniature later owned by Edward Kendrick Tighe (1862-1917).[166] Sarah Fownes, who married William Tighe, inherited the extensive Woodstcok estate in Co Kilkenny when her parents died in 1775.

114, Mrs Tighe wearing décolletté white dress with gauze collar (above), miniature, 1810, 2.8 x 0 in. / 7.2 x 0 cm, inscribed, sold at auction by Bonhams & Brooks, Knightsbridge, London, on 2 July 2001 (Lot 230).[167]

115, Colonel Charles Vereker (1768-1842), 2nd Viscount Gower, drawing from life, 1811, engraved by James Heath in 1811.[168] At the time, Lord Gort was Lord of the Treasury.

116, Dr Edward Walsh, etched by John Kirkwood in the Dublin University Magazine, vol 3 (1834).[169]

117, The Revd Robert Walsh (1772-1852), etched by John Kirkwood in the Dublin University Magazine, vol 15 (1840).[170] Walsh, who was born in Waterford, became known for his heroic efforts to counter typhus fever in 1819 while he was the Church of Ireland curate of Finglas in north Co Dublin, for which he received an honorary MD degree from the University of Aberdeen. Between 1820 and 1835, he was the Anglican chaplain in Constantinople, St Petersburg and Rio de Janeiro, and when he returned to Ireland he was Rector of Kilbride, Arklow, Co Wicklow (1836-1839) and Vicar of Finglas, Dublin (1839-1852).

118, Miss Walstein, engraved in stipple for the Kilkenny Private Theatre.[171]

119 and 120, The Misses Warren, two miniatures exhibited in Dublin in 1800 as “two miniatures of ladies.”[172] Commenting on Comerford’s miniatures of these Warren sisters from Kilkenny, the Hibernian Journal concluded in July 1800: “Here is an artist whom we never saw or ever before so much as heard of! Our astonishment at his pictures must excuse this note of admiration. We gaze indeed on their beauties with equal delight … Comerford has depth and breadth of light and shade, and all that drawing can furnish …”[173]

121, Dr White, of Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, a portrait in oils, later owned by Thomas O’Kearney White of Edenderry, Co Offaly.[174]

122, Sir David Wilkie (1785-1841), Scottish painter, a miniature portrait, undated. Exhibited with the Comerford Collection in Dublin, 2009.[175]

123, Thomas Williams (1748-1832), secretary to the Bank of Ireland, a miniature engraved by E. Scriven.[176]

124, Philip Yorke (1757-1834), 3rd Earl of Hardwicke, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1801-1805), an undated miniature portrait, exhibited in Dublin, 1802. Hardwicke was a supporter of Catholic Emancipation. This miniature was described by the Dublin Evening Post on 11 May 1802 as “one of the most exquisite productions.”[177] This portrait was exhibited with the Comerford Collection in Dublin, 2009.[178]

125, Philip Yorke (1757-1834), 3rd Earl of Hardwicke, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1801-1805), a figure in Sautelle Roberts, A View in the Valley of Glencree, with a Portrait of the Earl of Hardwicke, Lord Lieutenant, exhibited in Dublin in 1802.[179]

126, The Right Revd Matthew Young (1750-1800), a miniature portrait, after Hickey. This portrait, which is not catalogued by Strickland, was exhibited with the Comerford Collection in Dublin, 2009.[180] Bishop Young was a brilliant scientist and scientific writer, and at the time this portrait was painted he was a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin. Three years later, he became Bishop of Clonfert and Kilmacduagh (1799-1800), but he died of cancer in Whitworth, near Rochdale, Lancashire in 1800 at the age of 50.

127, Unidentified, a miniature portrait of a gentleman, dated 1813, signed “Comerford 1813,” later in the National Gallery of Ireland.[181]

128, Unidentified, a miniature portrait of an old gentleman, later in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.[182]

129, Unidentified, a gentleman (above) in black velvet jacket slashed to reveal white, small gold-coloured buttons and white ruff, his hair powdered, a miniature portrait; w/wc on silk, 2.8 x 0 in / 7 x 0 cm, signed, sold at auction by Bonhams, London, on 25 June 2005.[183]

130, Unidentified, an English officer, a miniature later in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. [184]

131-139, Unidentified, nine unfinished miniatures in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.[185]

140-150, Unidentified, eleven unfinished miniatures, owned in 1903 by Jeffrey Whitehead.[186]

151, Unidentified, a miniature portrait of a lady, unfinished miniature in the National Gallery of Ireland.[187]

152, Unidentified, a miniature portrait of a gentleman, undated. Exhibited with the Comerford Collection in Dublin, 2009.[188]

153, Unidentified, an undated miniature portrait of a gentleman, undated. Exhibited with the Comerford Collection in Dublin, 2009.[189]

154, Unidentified, a miniature portrait of a gentleman, dated 1805. Exhibited with the Comerford Collection in Dublin, 2009.[190]

155, Unidentified, an undated miniature portrait of a gentleman. Exhibited with the Comerford Collection in Dublin, 2009, paired with the next portrait.[191]

156, Unidentified, an undated miniature portrait of a lady. Exhibited with the Comerford Collection in Dublin, 2009, paired with the previous portrait.[192]

157, Unidentified, an undated miniature portrait of a lady. Exhibited with the Comerford Collection in Dublin, 2009, paired with the next portrait.[193]

158, Unidentified, an undated miniature portrait of a gentleman. Exhibited with the Comerford Collection in Dublin, 2009, paired with the previous portrait.[194]

159, Unidentified, a miniature portrait of a gentleman, ca 1815. Exhibited with the Comerford Collection in Dublin, 2009.[195]

160, Unidentified, an undated miniature portrait of a gentleman. Exhibited with the Comerford Collection in Dublin, 2009.[196]

161, Unidentified, an undated miniature portrait of a gentleman. Exhibited with the Comerford Collection in Dublin, 2009.[197]

162, Unidentified, an undated miniature portrait of a lady. Exhibited with the Comerford Collection in Dublin, 2009.[198]

Influence and legacy

John Comerford was a prolific miniaturist. His work is easily identified as he usually signed and dated his portraits in full. There is a large collection of his works in the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. In addition, his works can be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and at Kenwood House, London.[199]

In addition, a 19th century history of the Kilkenny Theatre, The Private Theatre of Kilkenny (1825), was illustrated with portraits of eleven leading people involved with the theatre, including some of the actors and actresses, engraved after miniatures by Comerford.[200]

By the mid-19th century, it was said that John Comerford was “almost the only Irish artist whose name has outlived” all the disputes between different artistic factions in Ireland at beginning of that century.[201] The celebrated miniature painter had left a great reputation as a fashionable artist in society, and was remembered for amassing a fortune.[202]

His popularity continued throughout the Victorian years, and some of his miniatures, including his portraits of Mr Burgoyne (1802, No 12) and William Fletcher (No 52) were included in an exhibition of portrait miniatures in South Kensington Museum in 1865.[203] At the beginning of the 20th century, one of the principal collectors of Comerford’s works was Lord Monteagle, whose father had sat for Comerford (see No 101).

His images of Daniel O’Connell and Henry Grattan, along with his portrait of Sydney Lady Morgan with her harp are reflected in the stucco Victorian iconography on the Irish House, executed at the height of his career by James Comerford (1817-1902) [see Comerford Profiles, ], whose father, James Comerford of Newtownbarry, Co Wexford (see No 34), had sat for John Comerford in 1808.

Collections and exhibitions

In 1999, Comerford was the principal subject of an exhibition of Irish miniature portraits organised by the Kilkenny Archaeological Society for which the curator was the art historian Paul Caffrey, who subsequently compiled the entry on John Comerford for the Oxford National Dictionary of Biography (Oxford: OUP, 2004).

The Comerford Collection of over 300 miniatures includes at least 20 miniature portraits by John Comerford, and has been acquired over a forty-year period by John and Pauline Comerford, with an emphasis on artists from Britain and Ireland.

The collection was later exhibited at Kilkenny Castle and in the Hunt Museum in Limerick. Twenty miniature portraits by John Comerford from this collection were included in an exhibition from the Comerford Collection at the Irish Architectural Archives in Dublin in 2009. They included the miniature portraits of Mr Ardington (No 1), Lady Domville (No 43), Lord Hardwicke (Nos 124-125), Lord Lismore (No 90), Lord Ormonde, (No 21), Elizabeth Rothe (No 102), Edward Smyth (No 108), Sir David Wilkie (No 122), Bishop Young (No 126), two unidentified couples (Nos 155-156 and Nos 157-158), six unidentified male sitters (Nos 152 to 154 and 159-161), and one identified female sitter (No 162).[204]

Sources, references and footnotes:

[1] WG Strickland, A Dictionary of Irish Artists, vol 1 (1913), p. 194; Paul Caffrey, ‘John Comerford,’ ONDB (Oxford: OUP, 2004), p. 865; Jane Fenlon, The Ormonde Picture Collection (Kilkenny: Kilkenny Castle, 2001), p. 116.
[2] Fenlon, p. 110.
[3] J.G. Robertson, ‘Shee’s Almshouse, Kilkenny,’ Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, vol 2, 5th series, Part IV, vol 22, consecutive series (1892), pp 435-437.
[4] Strickland, p. 194; Caffrey, ONDB, p. 865; Samuel Redgrave, Catalogue of special exhibition of portrait miniatures on loan at the South Kensington Museum (London, 1865), p. 288; Frances Clarke, ‘John Comerford,’ pp 713-714, Dictionary of Irish Biography, eds James McGuire and James Quinn, vol 2 (Cambridge University Press, and Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 2009), p. 713.
[5] Redgrave, Catalogue, p. 288.
[6] Strickland, p 194; Caffrey, ONDB, p. 865; Paul Caffrey, John Comerford and the portrait miniature in Ireland c. 1620-1850 (Kilkenny: Kilkenny Archaeological Society, 1999); Clarke, p. 713.
[7] Strickland, p. 194; Caffrey, ONDB, p. 865; Redgrave, Catalogue, p. 288; Fenlon, p. 116.
[8] Strickland. p. 194; Clarke, p. 713.
[9] Strickland, p. 194; Caffrey, ONDB, p. 865; Clarke, p. 713.
[10] Strickland, pp 194-195; Caffrey, ODNB, p. 865; Fenlon, p. 116; Clarke, p. 713.
[11] E. Langton Hayburn, ‘Langton Portraits,’ Old Kilkenny Review 25 (1973), pp 76-78; E. Langton Hayburn, ‘The Sale of the Langton Mansion on High Street, Kilkenny,’ Old Kilkenny Review, 3/1 (Second Series) (1984), pp 75-77; Clarke, p. 713.
[12] Strickland, p. 201.
[13] Strickland, p. 195.
[14] Strickland, p. 195; Caffrey, ONDB, p. 865; Clarke, p. 713.
[15] Caffrey, ONDB, p. 865; Clarke, p. 713.
[16] Hibernian Journal, 11 July 1800; Strickland, p. 195.
[17] Fenlon, p. 116.
[18] Fenlon, p. 116.
[19] Strickland, p. 195; Fenlon, p. 116.
[20] Strickland, p. 195; Caffrey, ONDB, p. 865.
[21] Strickland, pp 195-196.
[22] Strickland, p. 195; Caffrey, ONDB, p. 865.
[23] Hibernian Journal, 11 July 1800; Strickland, p. 195; Caffrey (1987), p. 42; Clarke, p. 713.
[24] Hibernian Journal, 11 July 1800.
[25] Strickland, p. 195; Clarke, p. 713.
[26] Strickland, pp 195, 197; Caffrey, ODNB, p. 865; Dublin Evening Post, 11 and 17 May 1802, cited in Strickland, p. 195, and Caffrey, ODNB, p. 865; Clarke, p. 713.
[27] Dublin Evening Post, 11 May 1802, cited in Strickland, p. 199.
[28] Strickland, p. 195; Caffrey, ODNB, p. 865; Clarke, p. 713.
[29] Ruán O’Donnell, Remember Emmet: Images of the Life and Legacy of Robert Emmet (Dublin: Wordwell and the National Library of Ireland, 2003), passim.
[30] O’Donnell, Remember Emmet, passim.
[31] Strickland, p. 200.
[32] Strickland, p. 200; APW Malcolmson, The Pursuit of the Heiress: Aristocratic Marriage in Ireland 1740-1840 (2006), p. 151.
[33] Strickland, pp 196-201; Clarke, p. 713.
[34] Strickland, p. 196; Clarke, p. 713.
[35] E. Langton Hayburn, ‘Langton Portraits,’ Old Kilkenny Review 25 (1973), pp 76-78; E. Langton Hayburn, ‘The Sale of the Langton Mansion on High Street, Kilkenny,’ Old Kilkenny Review, 3/1 (Second Series) (1984), pp 75-77.
[36] Strickland, p. 200.
[37] Caffrey, ONDB, p. 865; Clarke, p. 713.
[38] Strickland, pp 199, 200.
[39] Strickland, pp 199, 201.
[40] Caffrey, ONDB, p. 865.
[41] Strickland, p. 196.
[42] Strickland, p. 196; Fenlon, p. 116; Clarke, p. 714.
[43] Strickland, p. 196.
[44] Strickland, p. 196; Clarke, p. 714.
[45] Strickland, p. 196; Fenlon, p. 116; Clarke, p. 714.
[46] Strickland, pp 196-197; Caffrey, ODNB, p. 685; Clarke, p. 714.
[47] Strickland, p. 200; Clarke, pp 713-714.
[48] Strickland, pp 196-197; Caffrey, ODNB, p. 685; Clarke, pp 713-714.
[49] Caffrey, ODNB, p. 685; William Laffan and Brendan Rooney, Thomas Roberts: Landscape and Patronage in 18th-Century Ireland (Dublin: Churchill House Press for the National Gallery of Ireland, 2009).
[50] Caffrey, ODNB, p. 685; Clarke, p. 714.
[51] Caffrey, ODNB, p. 685; Clarke, p. 714.
[52] Strickland, p. 197; Clarke, p. 714.
[53] Strickland, p. 197; Caffrey, ONDB, p. 685.
[54] Strickland, p. 197; Caffrey, ODNB, p. 865; Redgrave, Catalogue, p. 288; Fenlon, p. 116; Clarke, p. 714.
[55] Srickland, p. 197; Caffrey, ODNB, p. 865; Clarke, p. 714.
[56] Strickland, pp 197-202; Fenlon, p. 116.
[57] The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures (Dublin, privately published, 2009), pp 9, 38 (# 141), 67 (sitter # 37).
[58] Strickland, p. 197.
[59] Strickland, p. 197.
[60] Strickland, p. 197.
[61] Strickland, p. 197.
[62] Strickland, p. 197.
[63] Strickland, p. 197.
[64] Strickland, p. 197.
[65] Strickland, p. 197.
[66] Strickland, p. 197.
[67] Strickland, p. 197.
[68] Strickland, p. 198.
[69] Strickland, p. 198.
[70] Strickland, p. 198.
[71] Strickland, Dictionary, 1, pp 194-202; Caffrey, Comerford, p. 51; Fenlon, p. 110.
[72] Strickland, p. 198.
[73] Strickland, p. 198.
[74] Strickland, pp 194-202; Caffrey, Comerford, p. 50; Fenlon, pp 83-83, 110.
[75] Fenlon, pp 83-84, 110; Caffrey, Comerford, p. 50.
[76] Strickland, p. 200.
[77] Strickland, p. 200.
[78]The Comerford Collection (2009), pp 9, 38 # 146), 67 (sitter # 40).
[79] Strickland, p. 199.
[80] Strickland, p. 198.
[81] Strickland, p. 198.
[82] Strickland, p. 198.
[83] Strickland, p. 198.
[84] Strickland, p. 198.
[85] E. Langton Hayburn, ‘Langton Portraits,’ Old Kilkenny Review 25 (1973), pp 76-78; E. Langton Hayburn, ‘The Sale of the Langton Mansion on High Street, Kilkenny,’ Old Kilkenny Review, 3/1 (Second Series) (1984), pp 75-77.
[86] E. Langton Hayburn, ‘Langton Portraits,’ Old Kilkenny Review 25 (1973), pp 76-78; E. Langton Hayburn, ‘The Sale of the Langton Mansion on High Street, Kilkenny,’ Old Kilkenny Review, 3/1 (Second Series) (1984), pp 75-77.
[87] Patrick Comerford, Comerford family private collection.
[88] Caffrey (Check refs).
[89] Strickland, p. 198.
[90] Strickland, p. 198.
[91] Strickland, p. 198.
[92] Strickland, p. 198.
[93] Strickland, p. 198.
[94] de Vere's sale catalogue, 22 May 2012, lot 44B; Strickland, p. 198.
[95] Strickland, p. 198.
[96] The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures, pp 9, 39 (# 147), 67 (sitter # 41).
[97] Strickland, p. 198.
[98] Strickland, p. 198.
[99] Strickland, p. 198.
[100] Ruán O’Donnell, Remember Emmet: Images of the Life and Legacy of Robert Emmet (Dublin: Wordwell and the National Library of Ireland, 2003), passim.
[101] Strickland, p. 198.
[102] Strickland, p. 199.
[103] Strickland, p. 199.
[104] Strickland, p. 198.
[105] Strickland, p. 199; Redgrave, loc cit.
[106] Strickland, p. 199.
[107] Strickland, pp 197, 199.
[108] Strickland, p. 199.
[109] Strickland, p. 199.
[110] James Adam Catalogue, 2004.
[111] Strickland, p. 199, Whyte, p.136.
[112] Strickland, p. 199.
[113] Strickland, p. 199.
[114] Strickland, p. 199.
[115] Strickland, p. 199.
[116] Strickland, p. 199.
[117] Strickland, p. 198.
[118] Strickland, p. 199.
[119] Strickland, p. 199.
[120] Strickland, p. 199.
[121] Thomas E. Connolly, ‘Home is where the Art Is: the Joyce family gallery,’ James Joyce Quarterly 20/1 (Fall 1982, University of Tulsa), pp 11-31; see Ellmann, Letters III, p. 280.
[122] Connolly, ‘Home is where the Art Is’ (1982), pp 11-31; see Ellmann, Letters III, p. 280.
[123] Connolly, ‘Home is where the Art Is’ (1982), pp 11-31; see Ellmann, Letters III, p. 280.
[124] Strickland, p. 199.
[125] Strickland, p. 199.
[126] Strickland, p. 199.
[127] Strickland, p. 201.
[128] Redgrave, Catalogue, p. 19; Strickland, p. 199.
[129] Strickland, p. 199.
[130] Connolly, ‘Home is where the Art Is’ (1982), pp 11-31; see Ellmann, Letters III, p. 280.
[131] Strickland, p. 200.
[132] Caffrey, ODNB, p. 865.
[133] Strickland, p. 200.
[134] Strickland, p. 200.
[135] Strickland, p. 200.
[136] Strickland, p. 200.
[137] Strickland, p. 200.
[138] Fenlon, p. 111.
[139] Bonham’s Catalogue, 2001.
[140] Check refs.
[141] Strickland, p. 200.
[142] The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures, pp 9, 37 (# 140), 67 (sitter # 36).
[143] Strickland, p. 199.
[144] Strickland, p. 200.
[145] Strickland, p. 200.
[146] Connolly, ‘Home is where the Art Is’ (1982), pp 11-31; see Ellmann, Letters III, p. 280.
[147] Strickland, p. 200.
[148] Strickland, p. 200.
[149] Strickland, p. 201; Malcolmson, (2006), p. 90.
[150] Strickland, p. 200; Malcolmson (2006), p. 151.
[151] Strickland, p. 200.
[152] Strickland, p. 201.
[153] Strickland, p. 200.
[154] The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures, pp 9, 41 (# 157).
[155] Strickland, p. 201.
[156] Strickland, p. 201.
[157] Strickland, p. 201.
[158] Strickland, p. 201.
[159] Strickland, p. 201.
[160] Strickland, p. 201; The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures, pp 9, 38 (# 145), 67 (sitter # 39).
[161] Strickland, p. 200.
[162] Caffrey, ODNB, p. 685; William Laffan and Brendan Rooney, Thomas Roberts: Landscape and Patronage in 18th-Century Ireland (Dublin: Churchill House Press for the National Gallery of Ireland, 2009).
[163] Strickland, p. 201.
[164] Strickland, p. 201.
[165] Strickland, p. 201, Whyte, p. 143.
[166] Strickland, p. 201.
[167] Catalogue, Bonhams & Brooks, 2001.
[168] APW Malcolmson, The Pursuit of the Heiress: Aristocratic Marriage in Ireland 1740-1840 (Belfast: Ulster Historical Foundation, 2006), p. 209; this portrait is not listed by Strickland.
[169] Strickland, p. 201.
[170] Strickland, p. 201.
[171] Strickland, p. 201.
[172] Strickland, p. 201.
[173] Hibernian Journal, 11 July 1800; Strickland, p. 195.
[174] Strickland, p. 201.
[175] The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures, pp 9, 38 (# 142), 67 (sitter # 38).
[176] Strickland, p. 201.
[177] Strickland, p. 199.
[178] The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures, pp 9, 40 (# 151), 67 (sitter # 42).
[179] Caffrey, ODNB, p. 685; William Laffan and Brendan Rooney, Thomas Roberts: Landscape and Patronage in 18th-Century Ireland (Dublin: Churchill House Press for the National Gallery of Ireland, 2009).
[180] The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures, pp 9, 40 (# 152), 67 (sitter # 43).
[181] Strickland, p. 201.
[182] Strickland, p. 201.
[183] Bonhams Catalogue (2005).
[184] Strickland, p. 202.
[185] Strickland, p. 202.
[186] Strickland, p. 202.
[187] Strickland, p. 202.
[188] The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures, pp 9, 38 (# 143).
[189] The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures, pp 9, 38 (# 144).
[190] The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures, pp 9, 39 (# 148).
[191] The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures, pp 9, 39 (# 149a).
[192] The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures, pp 9, 39 (# 149b).
[193] The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures, pp 9, 39 (# 150a).
[194] The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures, pp 9, 39 (# 150b).
[195] The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures, pp 9, 40 (# 153).
[196] The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures, pp 9, 40 (# 154).
[197] The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures, pp 9, 40 (# 155).
[198] The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures, pp 9, 40 (# 156).
[199] Caffrey, ONDB, p. 865.
[200] JG Robertson, ‘Shee’s Almshouse, Kilkenny,’ pp 435-437.
[201] ‘A glance at Irish Art,’ Dublin University Magazine, vol 52, August 1858, pp 197-199.
[202] ‘A glance at Irish Art’ (1858), pp 197-199.
[203] Redgrave, Catalogue, p. 288; Strickland, pp 198, 199.
[204] The Comerford Collection: Portrait Miniatures (privately published exhibition catalogue, Dublin, 2009), where they are listed on pp 9, illustrated on pp 37-40, and the sitters identified on p 67-68.

© Patrick Comerford, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013.

Last updated, 19 November 2009, 11 December 2009; 13 and 14 April 2010; 9 May 2012, 5 and 21 June 2012; 14 April 2013.

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