A different set of Clothes for Biddy

Part of the Irish Archives

The Vere Fosters

William Orpen (1878-1931) painted a family portrait of the Vere Fosters in 1907, which is now in the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland (NGI.1199). Augustus Vere Foster was the last baronet at Glyde Court, county Louth and Orpen's painting is set within the grounds of the Foster house at Glyde Court. Orpen stayed with the Vere Fosters in order to complete the commission. He portrayed the family outdoors, on what appears to be a duck hunt with a donkey and the family dog.

Augustus Vere Foster is dressed in hunting clothes with a rifle resting on his arm. Charlotte Vere Foster and her youngest daughter, Dorothy, are dressed in white dresses. Biddy Foster, the eldest daughter, is leading the donkey and holding a fat pigeon by the bird's feet. She is portrayed, like her father, in outdoor wear.

Orpen & Biddy Foster

In a letter to Evelyn St George (1870-1938), written from Glyde Court, Orpen suggests that Biddy Foster resisted dressing like her mother and sister for the portrait as she preferred to wear trousers. Orpen includes an illustration of himself with Biddy who is shown proudly wearing a shirt, breeches and a feathered hat. 'This is the eldest daughter Miss Biddy Foster who likes to be a boy – and makes a very good one – Alas they won’t allow her to be painted in these most delightful breeches', Orpen wrote. On the reverse, is a more comical drawing of Orpen struggling to dress himself in his bedroom. It illustrates how he imagines he will look in the morning as he rushes to get the morning train.


Ciara O'Brien, ESB CSIA Assistant Archivist

Published online: 2022