Art Collections Online

The Blind Harpist, John Parry (d.1782)

PARRY, William (1743 - 1791)

The Blind Harpist, John Parry (d.1782)

Media: oil on canvas

Size: 84.8 x 73.9 cm

Acquired: 1996; Purchase

Accession Number: NMW A 3979

Collection: The Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn Collection

‘And with a master’s hand and prophet’s fire
Struck the deep sorrows of his lyre’
Thomas Gray, The Bard, 1757

John Parry appears lost in the sound of his own music. Blind from birth, he was a celebrated musician and harpist to George III and Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. An early member of the Society of Cymmrodorion, he became an illustrious figure in the Celtic Revival. He claimed that his music was of druidical origin, and the triple harp he played was later adopted as the national instrument of Wales.

His ‘ravishing blind harmony’ with ‘tunes enough to choke you’ inspired the English poet Thomas Gray to finish writing The Bard in 1757. This poem became iconic, and was a popular subject with artists like Thomas Jones, whose version is on display.

This sensitive portrait of ‘Blind Parry’ was painted by his son, William. William also painted another version which originally hung at Wynnstay with Anton Mengs’s portrait of Richard Wilson

Comments (3)

Jill Hart
20 July 2019, 19:06
I am researching my Parry roots. I am trying to make the link between my forebear, Hannah Parry of Ruabon,( born c. 1817) and John Parry, Harpist from the same place.

Any help wold be so much appreciated.
Marc Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales Staff
4 September 2018, 11:45

Dear Ana Ester Santos,

John Parry has an article in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Two other blind harpists who followed in Parry's wake are represented by objects in our collections: William Williams (called Wil Penmorfa, 1759–1828), harpist to the Gwynne family of Tregib, Carmarthenshire (see this portrait) and Thomas Gruffydd (1815–1887), who was in the household of Lady Llanover (see here and here). I hope this information is of assistance to you in your research.

Best wishes,

Digital Team

Ana Ester Santos
2 September 2018, 19:47
Good evening,

I am searching about John Parry, because I am very interested in researching blind people's approach to playing harp. I am a harpist myself however I cant find much bibliography to know more about him or other blind harpist. Do you perhaps know of some book or source about John Parry or other blind harpists?
Comments are currently unavailable. We apologise for the inconvenience.
Back to Art Collections Online homepage

Browse artists

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z All Other

Browse makers and designers

Browse by letter:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z All