Watercolour sketch by Sir Robert Ponson by Staples

The estate and family papers of the Staples family are held in PRONI. They were chosen as the December 2015 document of the month.

The collection includes the papers of Sir Robert Ponsonby Staples, 12th baronet of Lissan and Faughanvale, Co. Tyrone.  His papers include a fascinating collection of 85 personal diaries running from 1872-1941 which give an insight to his personality and also chronicle events from the everyday to the extraordinary. 

Sir Robert is often remembered as the 'barefoot baronet' because of his habit of walking barefoot out of doors for around thirty minutes a day.  By profession, he was an artist and is best remembered for his portraiture.  Among those who sat for him were Oscar Wilde, Sir Edward Carson, Sarah Bernhardt and Lily Langtry.  water-colour-sketch-sir-robert-ponsonby

Lorraine Bourke from PRONI who selected the document said:

“Sir Robert Ponsonby Staples is known as an artist who was an honest chronicler of human life.  He painted people and events as they actually looked.  His diaries and papers which are held in PRONI show him to be intelligent, witty and possessed with a great sense of fun.  I love this sketch of his family and friends for the way it captures the personalities of those gathered around their Christmas dinner.”

The family seat was at Lissan House where some of Sir Robert’s paintings and engravings still hang and where photographs of him decorate the tables.  

Dr Neil Watt, Property Manager of Lissan House and Demesne added

“This informal sketch of yuletide festivities really captures the sense of fun and informality always felt at Lissan, even today. Sir Robert loved Christmas here, and many of his most accomplished paintings show the family and the house in winter.  We have just started decorating the house for Christmas, using his sketches as inspiration – just one way in which his presence is still felt in the old house”.

Lissan House is open to the general public in summer, and a visit there together with a review of his papers in PRONI is essential for anybody with an interest in this artist. 

The Staples papers are catalogued under the catalogue reference number D1567.  Sir Robert Ponsonby Staples’ papers are catalogued under the catalogue reference number D1567/G/1. Sir Robert Ponsonby Staples’ diary with this Christmas dinner scene dinner is closed to the public on preservation grounds but for the month of December a copy of the image will be available to view in PRONI. 

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