The present portrait is likely to have been painted during his time in Dublin and has been given to Barber on comparison with other signed and dated enamel portraits by him.

Rupert Barber’s father was a woollen-draper – also called Rupert – but it was his mother, Mary Barber, who encouraged his talent as an artist. Mary was a poet and friend of Jonathan Swift[1] and Mary Delany, the artist who, in her 72nd year, began the process of emulating flowers in cut-paper mosaics. So accurate were her collages that Joseph Banks began to send her flowers from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and she made almost 1000 works of art before her death. The Barber family lived in a cottage in the gardens at Delville, the Delany’s home as Glasnevin, Dublin. It was into this creative, hard-working environment that Rupert Barber was born. His mother paid for him to be apprentice in London to Arthur Pond (1735-39), he then worked in Bath before returning to Dublin in 1742.

After his marriage to Bridget Wilson (a niece of Dean Delany and described as ‘an agreeable young lady with a...

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Rupert Barber’s father was a woollen-draper – also called Rupert – but it was his mother, Mary Barber, who encouraged his talent as an artist. Mary was a poet and friend of Jonathan Swift[1] and Mary Delany, the artist who, in her 72nd year, began the process of emulating flowers in cut-paper mosaics. So accurate were her collages that Joseph Banks began to send her flowers from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and she made almost 1000 works of art before her death. The Barber family lived in a cottage in the gardens at Delville, the Delany’s home as Glasnevin, Dublin. It was into this creative, hard-working environment that Rupert Barber was born. His mother paid for him to be apprentice in London to Arthur Pond (1735-39), he then worked in Bath before returning to Dublin in 1742.

After his marriage to Bridget Wilson (a niece of Dean Delany and described as ‘an agreeable young lady with a handsome fortune’) and after that he worked between London, Bath and Dublin. The present portrait is likely to have been painted during his time in Dublin and has been given to Barber on comparison with other signed and dated enamel portraits by him. Particularly characteristic are the short, broken lines painted to describe the sitter’s eyebrows and the soft grey, stippled background. The sitter is likely to have been introduced to Barber by Mrs. Delany, who commissioned many portraits of her circle from the young artist.

[1] Rupert's mother, Mary Barber (c. 1685-1755), was one of Swift's own protégées, whom he called 'Saphira' and referred to as 'our chief Poetess'' and 'the best Poetess of both Kingdoms.' He drew Swift in pastel towards the end of his life in either 1744 or 1745.

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500 Years of British Art