Jacob Ennis, Historical and Portrait Painter

(b. 1728, d. 1770)

Historical and Portrait Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Was baptized in St. Peter's Church, Dublin, on 29th February, 1728, the son of James and Margaret Ennis. He studied drawing under Robert West in the school in George's Lane, gaining premiums in 1747, when he was first in order of merit, and in 1748 and 1750. His talents attracted the notice of Arthur Jones Nevill, Surveyor-General of Ireland, who sent him, about 1754, to study in Italy. On his return his patron employed him in decorating his house in Rutland Square. On the coving of the drawing-room ceiling he painted four panels or lunettes with figures of Bacchus, Venus, Diana and Mercury. These paintings, which are well executed, still remain in good condition in the house No. 14 Rutland Square; but the spaces between the panels have been filled in with modern and inferior painted decoration. This work of Ennis has been wrongly ascribed to Angelica Kauffmann.

Ennis established himself as a painter of portraits and historical pieces, and in 1763 was appointed Master in the Dublin Society's Drawing School in place of Robert West, retired through ill-health. In 1768 he won the prize of thirty pounds given by the Society for the best history piece, and in 1770 one of eleven pounds seven-and-sixpence for a portrait. He was an exhibitor with the Society of Artists in Dublin from 1765 to 1770 of portraits and classical subjects, among the latter being "The Death of Corasus" in 1765, and "Daedalus and Icarus" in 1766. His exhibited portraits were not named. A portrait by him of William Carmichael, Bishop of Meath, was engraved in mezzotint in Dublin by John Dixon (q.v.). Two portraits by him are in the possession of Mr. C. G. Macartney at Lissanoure, Co. Antrim, one of "George Macartney," the other of his son "George, Earl Macartney." Jonathan Fisher, the landscape painter, mentions in his will a "Picture of the Artists' Club, caricature," painted by Ennis. Ennis was one of the witnesses to the will of his patron, Arthur Jones Nevill, in 1763. He died in 1770 from the effects of a fall from his horse while riding in the County of Wicklow.

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