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Both the man shown here, Sir Neil O’Neill, and the artist, John Michael Wright, were Catholics. As a result of anti-Catholic legislation Wright was exiled from London to Dublin in 1679, where this work must have been painted. Sir Neil (?1658–1690) is shown in the richly ornamented costume of an Irish chieftain. Beside him is an Irish wolfhound, a valuable breed of dog whose export from Ireland was forbidden in 1652. At his feet is a rare suit of Japanese armour. This may be seen as a trophy representing victory over persecutors of Catholicism, among whom the Japanese were notorious at the time.

February 2016