Irish Georgian Society

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The vision of the Irish Georgian Society is to conserve, protect and foster a keen interest and a respect for Ireland’s architectural heritage and decorative arts. These aims are achieved through its scholarly and conservation education programmes, through its support of conservation projects and planning issues, and vitally, through its members and their activities.

A Generous Donation - William Laffan

27.04.2020

Posted by IGS

A longstanding member has donated a collection of Irish miniatures to the Society which first went on display at Castletown in 2016. The selected group featured here focuses on the Boyle family, Earls of Shannon and on members of the FitzGerald family of Carton – notably an oversized posthumous portrait of Lord Edward by Horace Hone.

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Lady Emily Mary Lennox, wife of the 1st Duke of Leinster, by Gustavus Hamilton, in a carved wooden frame

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Lord St. George FitzGerald – son of William Robert FitzGerald, 2nd Duke, as a child, on gilt metal and verre eglomise frame (Irish School circa 1790)

Castletown, home to Lord Edward’s aunt Louisa, is, of course, a most appropriate home and the tragic decline of the FitzGerald’s fortunes is poignantly foreshadowed in depictions of the young brothers Desmond (killed accidentally in the First World War) and Maurice (the 6th Duke) who died in a psychiatric institution a few years later. Paul Caffrey who has written a book on the subject notes: ‘few historic family collections of miniatures have survived in Ireland making this a truly remarkable collection of national importance’.

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Maurice FitzGerald, 6th Duke of Leinster, by Miss Annie Howard (1888) on gilt metal frame

The Irish Georgian Society has had a long relationship with Castletown and the OPW and Castletown Foundation who run it, and, over many years has lent important paintings and furniture to the house. Many of these were catalogued in the fine volume Castletown, Decorative Arts (OPW, 2011) which rather highlighted the absence of miniatures in the otherwise comprehensive showcasing of Irish fine and applied arts. This gap has been comprehensively filled with this donation which includes works by the finest Irish artists working in miniature such as Nathaniel Hone and Henry Kirchoffer. Sincere thanks are to the Irish donor, who wishes to remain anonymous.

William Laffan is an independent art historian, editor and curator.

This article is taken from the 2016 edition of the Irish Georgian Society Review, our annual members' magazine.