David Barry, First Earl of Barrymore (1604-1642)

David Barry, 1st Earl Barrymore

Ascribed to T. Luigi (1604-1642), Oil on canvas; 88.5 x 81cm
Inscribed on canvas, top left “A 1636 AE. Ts. Mths 9 TL”

When this portrait was examined in preparation for the exhibition Portraits & People: Art in Seventeenth Century Ireland at the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork in 2010, Director Peter Murray threw up several anomalies. The name plate informs the viewer that this is a portrait of David Barry, 1st Earl Barrymore, 1605-1642 (he was in fact born in 1604); the inscription on the canvas tells us that the sitter was aged 66 and 9 months at the time of painting, and yet the year 1636 would have made David Barry 32, making it all rather confusing …

Whoever this may be at whatever age, the sitter has been painted as a rather stern and serious man. His collar and cuff are brilliant white, puritanical; his body almost disappears into the canvas owing to his black coat, a means of focusing our attention on his face and hand, in which he holds a scrolled parchment, likely to be an indenture to lands or similar.
If the sitter is indeed David Barry, 1st Earl Barrymore – this was a man not to be trifled with. David had a reputation for being mean and ruthless – we know this from letters and diaries of the time. He was contracted to marry Alice Boyle – he 17 years of age, she 13. Alice’s father Richard Boyle agreed to pay the new King Charles I for an Earldom for David and Alice in 1627. They had several children together before David died from wounds received during the Confederate War of 1641, when he sided with the English in storming the castle of Ballymacpatrick (now Careysville – a Georgian house built on the site of the ruined castle).
The attribution of T. Luigi is uncertain, with Peter Murray of the Crawford believing it to be by a Dutch artist, possibly a follower of Frans Hals.