Collection Online
The Synnot children
oil on canvas
152.4 × 125.8 cm
inscribed (diagonally) in brown paint l.r.: I: Wright Pinxt 1781.
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria by Mrs Michael Hawker (née Patricia Synnot), Founder Benefactor, 1980
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
Gallery location
17th to 18th Century European Paintings Gallery
Level 2, NGV International

The sitters in this group portrait are the three children of Sir Walter Synnot (1742–1821) of County Armagh: Maria at the left, Marcus who is shown kneeling, and Walter at the centre. Underlying the charm of these angelic players are deeper levels of meaning. Through the ingenious motif of the birdcage, for example, The Synnot children engages the viewer in speculation on the nature of freedom and captivity, a true Enlightenment subject.


English, late 18th century

The Synnot Children came into the collection in 1980. It had been owned by a descendant of the Synnot family living in South Australia. The painting is unlined and still on the original stretcher. It came with this frame which is thought to be the original presentation of the painting and a remarkable example of late eighteenth century British framing. The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy London in 1781 and this is more than likely the frame prepared for the painting at that time. It is essentially cassetta in form, carved in timber and in remarkably good condition, the greater part of the gilding is original and only one or two of the lozenges have been replaced. In some ways this frame can be seen as a precursor to later Pre-Raphaelite frames in the second half of the nineteenth century. The flat form and the equally spaced lozenges or rosettes recall Italian frames from the fourteenth century. The frame has characteristics that suggest a design by Robert Adam.
The painting was cleaned in 1981.

The four paintings by Joseph Wright of Derby in the collection all retain original eighteenth century English frames and interestingly the frames are all straight sided, leaning more to a classical form than the Baroque.

Unknown - 18th century

carved timber


good original condition with minor repairs.