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This painting shows a prosperous Catholic family in the elegant setting of their 18th century home, Newtown House, built by John.

The room is decorated in the French style, influenced by the fact that at this time, wealthy Catholic families such as the Wyses sent their children to be educated in Catholic France.

Did You Know?

Mary Ann Blakeney was affectionately known by her nickname ‘Flashing-Eyed Moll’ from the devastating effect of her flashing eyes on the young men of Waterford. She was from a landowning family of substance from Ballyellin County Carlow.

She is wearing the fashion of the time with pearls and flowers in her hair and is playing a lute.

Family Origins

Family tradition says that the Wyse family came in with the Anglo-Normans and they played a huge part in Waterford's history contributing many mayors and other city officials through the centuries.  It was William Wyse, Waterford's Ambassador to the royal court in London, who brought back the gifts of sword and cap of maintenance from King Henry VIII. 

The first major landgrant to the family in 1375 is attested to by one of the Wyse documents on display in the Medieval Museum which Waterford Treasures purchased in 2011.  The earliest of these documents is a charter dated 1315 from King Edward II confirming the grant of lands to the Benedictine Priory of St John in Waterford, granted to the Wyse family at the suppression of the monasteries, written in a beautiful formal script of the period with the royal seal attached. 

The document from 1375 was drawn up a generation after the plague known as the Black Death when people feared the return of the plague which could sweep away whole families. To ensure that the land remained in the Wyse family the document lists 25 other male members of the family who could inherit the land before it would pass to a female member and thus out of the Wyse family.  The Wyse family continued to play a major role in the city right up to modern times.

The Painting

For 700 years the Wyse family has been associated with Waterford city. Incredibly they managed to keep their estates and wealth intact through Penal times while remaining Catholic. This painting shows a prosperous Catholic family in the elegant setting of their 18th century home, Newtown House, built by John. The room is decorated in the French style, influenced by the fact that at this time, wealthy Catholic families such as the Wyses sent their children to be educated in Catholic France.

Over-extended financially, John sold Newtown to the Religious Society of Friends who opened the famous school in 1798 that is still there today. The painting shows the room before the Quakers removed the decorative plasterwork, another reason for its importance.

Such 18th century interior scenes are extremely rare in Ireland. Painted by George Mullins on copper from the family’s mine on the coast at Bunmahon who ‘worked at Mr Wise’s manufactory at Waterford and painted snuffboxes and trays in imitation of Birmingham ware’.