Miniature portrait of the Edgeworth family
Adam Buck (1759-1833), Portrait of the Edgeworth Family, 1787. Photo © National Gallery of Ireland.

Portrait of the Edgeworth Family by Adam Buck (1759-1833)

Sheet: 25.1 x 30.4 cm
Coloured pencil, watercolour and graphite on paper
Purchased, 2006

Curator's Choice

We've asked the Gallery's curators to select some of their favourite works from the collection. Here, Anne Hodge, Curator of Prints and Drawings, shares an insight into a fascinating work on paper: 

"At a time when many families are homeschooling their children, I thought it might be interesting to see how an eighteenth-century miniature painter depicted a famous Irish family at work together.

At the centre of the composition is Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744-1817) an engineer and inventor from Edgeworthstown, Co. Longford. He faces his eldest daughter, the famous novelist Maria (1767-1849), as he points to a drawing on the table. Richard's third wife, Elizabeth Sneyd (standing holding a baby), and numerous other children look on.

In 1798, Maria and her father published a two volume treatise, 'Practical Education', which became an acclaimed manual for child-rearing. Key ideas included encouraging hands-on learning and experiment. Above all, children were to be encouraged to 'learn from their own experience a just confidence in their own powers.'

Other successful Edgeworth siblings included William, a civil engineer who built some of the first roads in the west of Ireland; the influential economist Francis Ysido; and botanist and pioneer of photography Michael Packenham Edgeworth."