Michael Ford, Portrait Painter and Mezzotint Engraver

(d. 1765)

Portrait Painter and Mezzotint Engraver

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Was son of the Rev. Roger Ford, Archdeacon of Derry, and brother of the Rev. Roger Ford, Prebendary of St. Patrick's who died in 1756. He was a pupil of the Dublin portrait painter, Michael Mitchell (q. v.), and studied also in France and Italy where, as well as in London, he spent some years. Returning to Dublin in 1742 he started as a teacher of drawing and painting, and also as a picture restorer and dealer, in Ann Street, as appears from an advertisement issued by him in January, 1742-3. In this he says that he "now intends to teach young gentlemen and ladies to draw and paint in oyl, water-colours or crayons, and will wait on them if required. He cleans and mends old pictures in the safest manner, as done by the best hands in London, puts in good order any pictures intended for public sale, and gives a good price for old pictures that have not been offered for sale, and will act with the utmost secrecy for those who would not be known to buy or sell. He is to be heard of at his brother's, the Rev. Dr. Ford in Molesworth's Fields; James Ford, woollen draper at the Salmon in Castle Street; Mr. John Finlay, merchant, in Cow Lane, or at his house in Ann Street, near Dawson Street. N.B.—He undertakes House Painting, Floorcloths, etc., and begs the interest of his Friends; those who are pleased to favour him with their work may depend on its being done with the utmost care and the very best dyes and colours."

Ford first appears as a publisher of prints in 1745, when a mezzotint "portrait of the Duke of Cumberland," by Andrew Miller (q.v.), was published by him in Ann Street, followed the next year, 1746, by "Cromwell and Lambert," also by Miller. These prints are inscribed: Sold by Michl. Ford Painter in Ann's Street near Dawson Street. In 1746 he took over the premises on Cork Hill, at the corner of the Blind Quay, the Sir Isaac Newton's Head, as successor to John Brooks (q.v.) when the latter went to London; and, changing the name to the "Vandyke's Head," carried on business there as a print-seller and publisher. From this address he published in the same year a mezzotint portrait, by Andrew Miller, of "Archbishop Cobbe." Hitherto Ford does not appear to have himself engraved; but in the following year, 1747, he published several prints, his own work, including "Henry Singleton," "Chief Justice Marlay," and "Lord Boyne."

It is usually stated that Ford learnt the art of mezzotinting as a pupil of Brooks; but there is no evidence of this, and it seems more probable that Andrew Miller was his instructor. His taking up mezzotinting led to an unpleasant rivalry between the two artists, hitherto friends, which culminated in a quarrel regarding their rival plates of Lord Boyne issued in 1747. Ford had a paragraph inserted in the "Dublin Courant" of 8th-12th March, 1747-8, stating that "at a general meeting of the Dublin Society two whole-length mezzotint prints of the late Lord Boyne were produced to them for their judgment and approbation, which of them was most deserving and likest the original painting which was placed by them, one done by Mr. Ford on Cork Hill by subscription, the other by one Miller; when on a full examination by many good judges it was unanimously given in favour of Mr. Ford's print." In a subsequent number of the paper Miller denied the accuracy of the statement, saying that the Society came to no decision and that it was never the design of the Society to engage or interfere in any party quarrel. Ford published his print at 5s. 5d., while Miller charged only 2s. 8 ½d. for his.

Ford appears to have relinquished mezzotint engraving after a few years. Only two prints were issued by him after 1749, viz., those of the "Countess of Coventry" and the "Duchess of Hamilton," both published in 1752. But he continued his business as a painter and print-seller until about 1762, as in that year an advertisement refers to the "Shop lately kept by Mr. Ford, Print-seller, on Cork Hill." The premises had then been converted into an auction room. Ford died in Trinity Lane, Hogg Hill, on the 6th March, 1764-5.

His death is thus announced in a contemporary newspaper: "On Hogg Hill, Mr. Michael Ford, Portrait Painter, a man of approved probity and greatly esteemed for his many social virtues which endeared him to all his friends and acquaintances." He was buried at St. Andrew's Church on the 8th March. He died intestate, and administration of his effects was granted, on the 19th March, to his son James Ford, gentleman. Ford always described himself on his prints as "Painter and Print-seller." Two of the prints done by him were after pictures by himself, viz., "Henry Boyle," Ford Pinxit et Fecit 1748, and "Chief Justice Henry Singleton," Ford Pinxt. No other pictures by him are recorded. His prints, of which there are eighteen known, all published by himself in Dublin, are scarce. They are:

George, Lord Anson; after A. Pond. This print bears no engraver's name, but is included amongst Ford's prints by Gilbert. It is similar, in reverse, to a print by MacArdell. Its publication is announced in an advertisement of 16th June, 1747, "Ametzotinto print of the brave Admiral Anson in the manner of the illustrious Heads, from an original done by Mr. Pond in London."

Dr. Richard Baldwin. Advertised, January, 1748. Mentioned by Gilbert, but unknown to Chaloner Smith, and has not been met with.

James, 4th Earl of Barrymore; after Ottway.

Hugh Boulter, Archbp. of Armagh; after S. Slaughter. Advertised as ready for publication, July, 1747. Not known to Chaloner Smith.

Henry Boyle. Ford Pinxit et fecit, 1748.

Gustavus, 2nd Viscount Boyne; after W. Hogarth. Advertised as ready in July, 1747. A rival plate to one by Miller.

Philip, Earl of Chesterfield; after W. Hoare. Dated 1748.

Maria (Gunning), Countess of Coventry; after F. Cotes. Published in 1752. Chaloner Smith notes only a later state published by Bowles in London. See under Duchess of Hamilton, below.

William, Duke of Cumberland; after T. Hudson. 1745.

George II; after T. Hudson. Dated 1748. Seems to have been taken from a print by Faber.

Elizabeth (Gunning), Duchess of Hamilton; after F. Cotes. Advertised 16th June, 1752: "This day is published by Michael Ford.....by subscription, two very like prints of the celebrated Miss Gunnings, now Duchess of Hamilton and Countess of Coventry, published by Mr. Cotes, painter, and sold by him in London at half a guinea the two prints which may be had at the above Ford's shop." This advertisement would convey that Ford was only the publisher or seller of the prints, were it not that both are inscribed Ford fecit. They are probably pirated copies of prints by McArdell.

William, Earl of Harrington; after Du Pan. Advertised in January, 1749, as "now in hands and doing by subscription." A companion print to that of Lt.-Genl. Richard St. George, to whom it was dedicated. In "Sleator's Public Gazetteer," November, 1765, appears an advertisement offering 2s. 6d. reward for the plates of the mezzotints of the Earl of Harrington and General St. George, by the late Mr. Ford, which had been mislaid.

Thomas Marlay, Chief Justice of the King's Bench. Advertised as ready July, 1747. Catalogued by Gilbert, but not known to Chaloner Smith.

Lieut.-General Richard St. George; after S. Slaughter. See note under Harrington.

Henry Singleton, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. Ford pinxit. Advertised as ready for issue, July, 1747. Three-quarter length. In Joly collection in National Library.

William III; after Kneller. 1748.

William III and Frederick Duke of Schomberg. The heads after G. Kneller. Designed & Ex. by M. Ford Painter. Published in 1749, by subscription.

The Battle of the Boyne; after Wyck. Advertised as "in hand," June 16, 1747. Presumably a copy of the print by Brooks. It has not been met with.


Duke of Cumberland. Engraved by A. Miller in 1746. Sold by Michl. Ford Painter in Ann's Street near Dawson Street.

Charles Cobbe, Archbishop of Dublin. Engraved by A. Miller in 1746. Sold by Mich. Ford Painter and Printseller at Vandyke's head on Cork Hill.

Oliver Cromwell and General Lambert. Sold by Mich. Ford painter in Ann St. near Dawson St. Andrew Miller fecit Dublin 1745. The print is dedicated by Ford to Lord Molesworth.

James, Earl of Kildare.

Emily, Countess of Kildare. Both [the above, i.e. James and Emily] engraved by J. McArdell and published by Ford in 1754, and dedicated by him to the Earl and Countess. "Now in hands by subscription two metzotinto prints, one of the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Kildare, the other of the Countess of Kildare, doing by Mr. McArdell in London, from original paintings, and will be finished as soon as possible. Subscriptions are taken at Ford's Printshop on Cork Hill opposite Lucas' Coffee House at an English Half Crown each print." In a later advertisement to his subscribers he gives notice that his prints of Lord and Lady Kildare, "which he had done at great expense by Mr. McArdell in London," had been copied by some person who had not dared to put his name to the print ("Faulkner's Journal," 30th July—3rd August, 1754).

Garrick as Richard III; after Hogarth. A line engraving by C. Spooner. Published by Ford and dedicated by him to the Dublin Society.

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