Thursday, 16 July 2020

Belfast Yeomanry Painting

Review of the Belfast Yeomanry (Image: Belfast Harbour Commissioners)

In George Benn's History of the Town of Belfast he mentions a famous picture, depicting a great Review of the Military and Yeomanry of Belfast by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the 3rd Earl of Hardwicke, on the 27th August, 1804.

Benn explains that all persons subscribing were to have their portraits introduced.

The painter, Thomas Romney Robinson (1756-1810), remarked that
"It will be curious to hand down to future generations the likenesses of the principal inhabitants of the present day assembled in one of the most beautiful parts of this improving town." 
"It will be an additional value to the undertaking that the ladies will be introduced as gracing this interesting scene."
The painting, which today hangs at the Belfast Harbour Commissioners' Office, Corporation Square, contains the 1st Marquess of Donegall, in uniform and on horseback; Sir Edward May Bt; Sir Arthur Chichester Bt; Thomas R Robinson, the painter, his wife, and their son Romney, a little boy in a fancy costume; Mr Edward May, James Douglas, Thomas Verner, George Augustus Seymour Harvey, Gilbert McIlveen, William and John Sinclaire, William Johnston, Hugh Crawford, Narcissus Batt, Dr and Mrs Bruce, Dr Drummond, Mrs Graydon, Henry Joy, Thomas Whinnery, John Smith, Robert Batt, Nathan Gregg, Robert Getty, John Barnett, Goerge Joy, Rev W Armstrong, Dr James McDonnell, Alexander Stewart, Mrs Batt, etc.

George Benn remarks that the painting is nine feet in width and six feet in height, with forty-four figures, some on horseback, dated 1804.

"So far as we can recollect, the likenesses are generally good, and several more whose faces are not shown, and whose names are not given, are on horseback, and many others, besides some ladies."

"The work is altogether a Belfast historical picture, and of very great interest and value."

The Dictionary of Irish Artists, 1913, tells us that the painting was exhibited in 1809 under the title A Military Procession in Belfast in honour of Lord Nelson.

Robinson, it is said, originally intended this picture to represent a "Review of the Belfast Volunteers and Yeomanry by the Earl of Hardwicke, Lord Lieutenant, in 1804," by which title it is now known.

About 1807 he tried to dispose of it by lottery, but, not being successful, he put in a statue of Lord Nelson in the centre of the picture, and exhibited it in Dublin as above.

A note on the Key to the picture in the Harbour Office says: "The background originally represented Donegall Place, but the artist afterwards changed it into the present ideal one."

No such event as a procession in honour of Lord Nelson took place, and there was never any statue of Nelson in Belfast.


Greylag said...


Do you have an email address? I Was hoping you could help me with something.
John Corry

Timothy Belmont said...