Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of the Earl of Shannon (1686-1764) 1740c.

Robert Healy 

Portrait of the Earl of Shannon (1686-1764), Robert Healy
Chalk on paper
18th Century
22 x 17 inches 55.9 x 43.1 cm
Boyle family collection.
In a family profuse with titles Henry Boyle was the grandson of the first Earl of Orrery and the great grandson of the Great Earl of Cork. He succeeded to his property in 1705, at the age of nineteen, and devoted himself to a career in Irish politics. He was Member of Parliament for Midleton from 1707-11, for Kilmallock from 1713-1715 and for County Cork from 1715-1756. He was appointed a Privy Counsellor on the 13th April 1733. On 4th October 1733 he was made Speaker of the House of Commons of Ireland, and on 19th November that year he was made Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was one of His Majesty’s Lords Justices for Ireland on no fewer than nineteen occasions.

On his resignation of the Speakership of the House of Commons in 1756 he was granted a pension of £2,000 for thirty-one years and raised to the peerage in that year as Baron of Castle Martyr, Viscount Boyle of Bandon and Earl of Shannon.

By his second wife, a kinswoman, Henrietta daughter of Charles Boyle third Earl of Cork and second Earl of Burlington, he had a son, Richard Boyle, who succeeded him in 1764 and established his family’s dynasty.

Little is known of the career of the artist Robert Healy, though his recognised oeuvre indicates some considerable talent. His death in 1771 came as a result of a cold caught while sketching cattle in Lord Mornington’s park, and in his own time he was esteemed as a drawer in chalks of animals, although no such works survive. The closest piece to suggesting this accomplishment is the celebrated Castletown Hunt, an elegant frieze drawing whose horses, in the opinion of Pasquin, ''look like fine proof prints of the most capital mezzotinto engravings.'' (1).

Healy’s reputation now, however, rests upon the virtuosity of his chalk portrait drawings, such as this example, which must date to the last year or so of Lord Shannon’s life, placing it c.1764. Other notable works include a self-portrait dated 1766 in the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland (NGI 2146) shows the artist as a young man leaning on a classical bust, with a portfolio and porte-crayon, which displays the artist’s commitment to the traditional academic practice of the apprentice painter. An early work, Anne Countess of Mornington feeding her peacocks, is dated to 1760, and, together with a fine Portrait of Mrs Craddock, shows an instinctive grasp of lighting and anatomy, and an admirable understanding of a light and agreeable composition. All are of a size comparable with the present portrait, which must, necessarily represent a standard size of paper.
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