Historic Boyne painting back to its former glory

Sam McCleary, vice chairman of the Friends of Brownlow House with the restored painting of King William which was found in the basement of the building.
Sam McCleary, vice chairman of the Friends of Brownlow House with the restored painting of King William which was found in the basement of the building.

ONE of the earliest paintings of the Battle of the Boyne which was found with bullet holes and knife slashes has been restored to its former glory.

It is believed the artwork – discovered in the basement of Brownlow House in Lurgan – dates back as far as the late 1700s and may even have been copied by the famous painter Benjamin West.

It depicts King William crossing the Boyne with his triumphant forces during the legendary battle with King James in 1690.

The painting was only found by chance during a major restoration programme at Brownlow House five years ago.

Ruth Bothwell, a painting conservator and decorative artist from England who was brought in to work on the project at the house and later restored the painting, said she was immediately drawn to the battle scene.

“I had been busy working on the ceilings at Brownlow, but during my lunch hour, I liked to walk around and have a bit of a nosey, so I ventured down into the cellar where I found the painting,” she told the News Letter.

“It was in very bad condition, there were two bullet holes in it and three knife slashes in it, and around 45 per cent of the painting was missing.

“But I knew that this painting was very old and decided to have it restored.”

The painting – which is now on display in Brownlow House – took more than two years to complete at the London School of Restoration.

“It was painstaking job but it quickly became apparent that this was a very important piece,” Ruth added.

“I believe it was painted by a Dutch artist in the late 1700s or possibly early 1800s.

“The painting itself is of a very high quality and a very accurate depiction of the battle scene, which may indicate that this was painted before Benjamin West’s painting of the Battle of the Boyne – but as there is no signature on the painting, we have no way of telling for sure.”

Benjamin West was an Anglo-American painter of historical scenes around and after the time of the American War of Independence.

In 1763, West moved to England, where he was commissioned by King George III to create Royal portraits.

Ruth added: “Certainly this has been one of the most exciting discoveries and pieces I have ever worked on, and I am thrilled that the painting has been saved.”

Sam McCleary, from the Friends of Brownlow House group, said they were uncertain about where the painting - which could well be worth thousands of pounds - should be kept.

“We are all delighted to have the painting back hanging at Brownlow, Ruth did a marvellous job,” he said.

“That painting has been through a lot, and it must have been put into storage in the cellar at the time of the fire at Brownlow House.

“I don’t know if we will keep it on display all the time, and we do not want anything to happen to it after the work has gone into it, so we’ll have to see what happens.”