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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’ portrait of Richard Wilson

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