About this artwork

Patrick Byrne was a famous blind musician from Ireland, who visited Edinburgh in the 1840s. He was educated at an academy in Belfast where blind people were taught to play the harp. One night he performed in a ‘tableau vivant’ at one of the costumed Waverley Balls, dressed as the elderly musician of Walter Scott’s epic poem ‘The Lay of the Last Minstrel’. Hill later wrote of this calotype: ‘The Harper, whose costume is made of a blanket and plaid shows how simply one might get up pictures of the old world.’ Byrne's instrument is one of the large wire-strung harps made by Dublin harp maker John Egan for the Irish Harp Society. This is a calotype negative from which multiple positive images could be printed.

Updated before 2020

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David Octavius Hill

David Octavius Hill