Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portraits of Theodora (b.1674) and Ruth Finch (b.1678) 1680s

Garret Morphy (d.c.1715)

Portraits of Theodora (b.1674) and Ruth Finch (b.1678), Garret Morphy
Oil on canvas
17th Century
29 ¾ x 24 7/8 ins. (75.5 x 63.3 cm.)
By family descent, until 2015.
To view portraits currently for sale at Philip Mould & Co, please go to www.philipmould.com.

We are grateful to Jane Fenlon for confirming the attributions to Garret Morphy.

This charming pair of portraits by the celebrated Irish painter Garret Morphy have only recently come to light, and are an exciting addition to Morphy’s recorded oeuvre.

Garret Morphy was arguably the first painter in Ireland to produce work to a standard comparable with the painters of London and Edinburgh, and to maintain a thriving independent practise. In 1673 he is recorded as working with Edmund Ashfield in London. This places him in a Roman Catholic circle of painters, as Ashfield had been an assistant of John Michael Wright, and it was from among the Catholic gentry and aristocracy that Morphy drew the mass of his patrons.

Morphy’s travels up to the year 1694 - when he painted Lady Shelburne in Dublin - are not certainly known - but it is likely that he divided his time between England, where he was recorded from 1685-8, and Ireland. The fact that George Vertue never refers to Morphy in his notebooks is usually taken as proof that Morphy did not return to London in the 1690s. He made his will, describing him as ‘of the City of Dublin, painter’ on November 1st 1715, which was proved on May 12th in the following year. The only other near-contemporary reference to him comes with an advertisement in the Dublin Evening Post June 15th - 19th no.99 for a picture sale in Dame Street that includes ‘several portraits of the gentry of this kingdom done by the famous Mr Murphy.’

Although his tutorage is not known for certain, Morphy’s style proposes Gaspar Smitz as a possible teacher, but Morphy’s work demonstrates an eclecticism that shows he was susceptible to and aware of many influences in the London art world of the 1670s. Although he claimed not to admire his work, Morphy was also clearly influenced by the postures of Sir Peter Lely, which were widely available for copy either from the paintings themselves or from prints. The atmosphere in Morphy’s work, however, is his most conspicuous debt to John Michael Wright, and his paintings are often invested with the same intangible air of enchantment, and they convey to the spectator the same sense of bearing an allegorical interpretation that just escapes the wit of the observer to elucidate.

The present portraits depict Theodora and Ruth Finch, daughters of Joseph Finch of Westonhanger, Kent, and his wife Judeth. Joseph and Judith had five children, and portraits of their other two daughters, Judith and Elizabeth, also by Morphy, are on loan to Bolling Hall, Bradford, on loan from the Earl of Halifax.

Although both works are catalogued as by unknown artists, they are clearly by Morphy and were no doubt painted around the same time as a the present works.
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