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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 2004