This image forms part of a set of daguerreotypes of O’Connell and the so-called ‘Repeal Martyrs’, including Thomas Matthew Ray, secretary of the Repeal Association, and Charles Gavan Duffy, one of the founders of The Nation and a member of O’Connell’s Repeal Association. These striking likenesses were taken while the men were incarcerated in rooms in the Richmond Bridewell prison in Dublin in 1844.
In his memoir, Young Ireland: a fragment of Irish history 1840-45, Charles Gavan Duffy wrote: ‘An artist’s studio and a daguerreotypist’s camera were set up within the precincts to multiply likenesses of the prisoners, and the caricaturists made more amusing ones without the trouble of a sitting.’
It was a commercial photographer called Alexander Doussin Dubreuil (Irish, fl. 1842-1845) who had been granted access to the prison to take the daguerreotypes. He operated from a studio on the roof of the Rotunda buildings, at the top of Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street), and created these rare photographic images just five years after the new daguerreotype process was announced to the world.
These extremely rare photographic images, each measuring approximately 5.5 x 4cm, with the sitters’ signatures inscribed underneath, are mounted and set into a gilt frame. They are now in the National Gallery of Ireland’s collection. They were purchased for £15 in 1905 from the daughter of Thomas Ray, one of the depicted men.