Many of us in colgaffneyis know about John Michael Wright’s portrait, from c. 1680, of the young Highland aristocrat Lord Mungo Murray. I recently learned that the same artist also did a portrait of an Irish Jacobite nobleman, Sir Neil O’Neill, 2nd Baronet of Killeleagh.
There are some interesting points about this:
- Sir Neil is wearing trews, traditional dress known in both Ireland and the Scottish Highlands, but scorned by the establishments in London and Dublin. Similarly Lord Mungo is shown in a belted plaid, Highland dress that would have been considered barbaric in Edinburgh. It may not be a coincidence that the artist, like Sir Neil, was a Catholic. Perhaps this was a protest against the Protestant establishments that ruled England, Scotland, and Ireland.
- He is armed with traditional weapons, a shield (larger than a Highland targe) and a javelin (his servant in the background has some spares). These weapons were of course long obsolete: The Irish had been effectively using firearms for about a century. Their appearance here seems to be symbolic, showing that he is really an Irish nobleman.
- The doublet is very similar to Lord Mungo’s. Either it was quite the fashion in some quarters, or the artist really liked it.
- At his feet is an incomplete suit of Japanese(!) armor.