Sir John Irwin, KB, reviewing Troops in Dublin

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© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Sir John Irwin, KB, reviewing Troops in Dublin

by Francis Wheatley
oil on canvas, 1781
93 in. x 69 in. (2362 mm x 1752 mm)
Purchased, 1883
Primary Collection
NPG 682

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  • Francis Wheatley (1747-1801), Painter. Artist or producer associated with 10 portraits, Sitter associated with 5 portraits.

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The only identified figure in this portrait is the soldier on the right. He is Sir John Irwin; a socialite and a Member of Parliament, who held the post of Commander-in-Chief in Ireland from 1775-82. Irwin was also invested as a Knight of the Bath in 1779 and appointed colonel of the 3rd Regiment of Horse in Ireland in 1781. Both of these events appear to be commemorated in this portrait which is thought to depict a review of the troops in Phoenix Park, Dublin. Irwin wears his star of the Order and his servant, in green, holds a saddle cloth decorated with the badge of the order. During the 1760s and 1770s Irwin had been active in repressing the Whiteboys, a southern Irish insurgent movement of labourers and small farmers who were against the enclosure of land and taxes that were being levied. Despite his promotion in the 1780s, Irwin's extravagant lifestyle left him penniless. He had to resign his offices and flee to the continent, in 1783, to avoid his creditors.

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