Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Lady Mary Boyle and her son Charles 1700c.

Studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller Bt (1646-1723)

Portrait of Lady Mary Boyle and her son Charles, Studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller Bt
Oil on canvas
17th Century
36 x 28 inches 92 x 74 cm
Possibly the family of the Earls of Shannon; Private Collection, USA.
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This image is remarkable, and to all present researches, unique in the work of British portrait painters in the decades either side of 1700. There is no immediately comparable image of a mother suckling a child, and despite the obvious references to the Virgin Mary -a play on the sitter's name- the painting is unmistakeably a true and tender image of motherhood.

Lady Mary Boyle was the daughter of Murrough O'Brien, the 1st Earl of Inchiquin, and thus a daughter of one of the very few native Irish houses to claim direct descent from Brian Boru.

Lady Mary married firstly the Hon Lt Col. Henry Boyle of Castlemartyr, Co. Cork, the second son of the great Roger Boyle Earl of Orrery. Lady Mary had four sons, of whom the second and eldest surviving was Henry Boyle, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, created Earl of Shannon in 1756. The baby shown here is Charles, her third son, who pursued a career in the Navy and was promoted Captain in 1711.

Colonel Boyle died on active service with the Duke of Marlborough in 1693, and Lady Mary married Admiral Sir Thomas Dilkes MP, and later, at his death, Colonel John Irwin.
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