DIGBY, SIMON

(d. 1720)

Amateur Miniature Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Miniature by Himself; in possession of Mrs. Digby, Dromore, Greystones, Co. Wicklow.

He was son of Essex Digby, Bishop of Dromore; was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, took orders, and was made rector of Dunshaughlin, County Meath, and chaplain to the Earl of Ossory, Lord Deputy in 1668. After various preferments he was, in 1678, made bishop of the united dioceses of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe, and in January, 1691, was translated to the see of Elphin. Where he learned his art as a miniature painter is not known. Bishop Downes, writing from Dublin, 19th April, 1720, to Archbishop Wake, says that Bishop Digby "was a great master of painting in little water-colours, and by that quality recommended himself to men in power and ladies, and so was early made a bishop" ("Journal of Royal Archaeological Association of Ireland" for 1872-3, p. 253). He painted the portraits of many of the important personages of his time. A number of his miniatures are preserved at Sherborne Castle, Dorsetshire, the seat of Mr. Wingfield Digby; seventy were in the possession of his descendants at Landenstown, County Kildare, and were sold by auction to a dealer in Henry Street, Dublin, from whom they were purchased by George Petrie (q.v.). Petrie gave them away to his friends, including the Rev. Henry R. Dawson, Dean of St. Patrick's, who had the portraits of Archbishops Sancroft, Tillotson, and Narcissus Marsh, the Earl of Tyrconnell, Henry Lord Capel, and two portraits of the painter's father, the bishop of Dromore. Of these, Bishop Tillotson and Lord Capel, together with one of Henry Lord Sidney, are now in the National Museum, Kildare Street. Two miniatures were exhibited by Mr. Robert Malcolmson at a meeting of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society in 1873.

Bishop Digby married Elizabeth daughter of Warner Westenra, by whom he had eight sons and eight daughters. He died at his house at Lacken, County Roscommon, on the 7th April, 1720, and was buried in the church of Tosara (Mount Talbot). His portrait, with his wife and children, painted in miniature by himself, belongs to Mrs. Digby of Dromore, Greystones.

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