La nature est un temple*

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This small domed stone temple was originally erected around 1740 by Sir Compton Domville on his estate at Templeogue, Dublin. Later moved to Santry Court, it was lying in pieces on the ground when discovered in the late 1940s by architectural historian Maurice Craig. He encouraged Oonagh Guinness to rescue the monument and re-erect it at Luggala, County Wicklow on the shores of Lough Tay. In recent years her son Garech has further restored the temple and replaced its lost ball finial.

*from Baudelaire’s Correspondences.

In Gilt and In Glory

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One of a pair of 18th century rococo gilt pier glasses that hang in the first-floor back drawing room of 5 Clare Street, Dublin, now used for board meetings by the National Gallery of Ireland. The two have belonged to the NGI since the early 1900s after being included in the Milltown Gift, that is the bequest made to the institution by Geraldine, Countess of Milltown following the death of her husband the seventh Earl. Previously the pier glasses had been part of the decoration of the saloon at Russborough, County Wicklow for which it is believed they were commissioned some time around 1750. We do not know who was responsible for carving them, but the craftsmanship is certainly superb. When the Countess of Kildare visited in 1759, she reported to her husband that ‘the house is really fine and the furniture magnificent.’ Since much of that furniture was of similar calibre, her praise was more than justified.

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Read All About It

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In the library at Russborough, County Wicklow an open page of James Malton’s A Picturesque and Descriptive View of the City of Dublin displayed in a Series of the most Interesting Scenes taken in the Year 1791. In 1799 Malton, an architectural draughtsman by training, published in a single volume his series of twenty-five engravings showing key buildings in the Irish capital, noting ‘The entire of the views were taken in 1791 by the author, who, being experienced in the drawing of architecture and perspective, has delineated every object with the utmost accuracy; the dimensions, too, of the structures described were taken by him from the originals, and may be depended upon for their correctness.’ Malton’s images remain one of our most important sources of information about the appearance of Dublin at the end of the 18th century.
For more about Russborough, see my article on the house in the September issue of American Elle Decor: http://www.elledecor.com/design-decorate/interiors/irish-heritage?click=main_sr#slide-1

The Irish Aesthete Recommends III

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The drawing room at Rossana, County Wicklow as painted by Maria Spilsbury Taylor (1777-1823) an English artist who moved to Ireland after marrying an Anglican clergyman and thereafter became friendly with the Tighes of Rossana, known for their religious fervour. Rossana was originally built around 1742 by William Tighe but extended later in the century when wings were added. One of these contained the drawing room with the elaborate panelling seen above and often attributed to Grinling Gibbons (which would suggest it came from another, earlier, building). In the last century the wings were demolished and the panelling taken to the United States.
Rossana was a house well-known to poet Mary Tighe (née Blachford) who often stayed there, although she would die in March 1810 at Woodstock, County Kilkenny (see Of Wondrous Beauty Did the Vision Seem, May 13th). Mary Tighe is the subject of a new biography by Miranda O’Connell which brings this once-famous author of the six-canto allegorical poem Psyche back to public attention after a long period of unjustified neglect. Acknowledged as much for her beauty as her literary skills, Tighe’s early death transformed her into a figurehead of the Romantic Movement. Miranda O’Connell’s book not only considers the poems but also places her subject in the context of Ireland before and after the Act of Union, a fascinating period in the country’s history. Much to be recommended, it also contains many fascinating pictures and photographs.
Mary Tighe by Miranda O’Connell is published by Somerville Press (see http://www.somervillepress.com).

You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog

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A couple of details of the plasterwork on the main staircase at Russborough, County Wicklow. The walls here are smothered with flamboyant but finely finished decoration – thought to be the work of Irish stuccodores – celebrating the delights of the hunt, hence the profusion of hounds’ heads together with trophies of the chase. Russborough will be hosting a Hints of History festival this coming weekend. For more information, see http://www.russboroughhouse.ie/images/downloads/hintsofhistory.pdf

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The Irish Aesthete Recommends I

Enniskerry

Located by the Glencullen river, Enniskerry, County Wicklow is one of the most charming villages in Ireland and essentially owes both its existence and appearance to the Wingfield family, Viscounts Powerscourt who for over 350 years lived on the neighbouring Powerscourt estate. Its relative proximity to Dublin has always given Enniskerry a particular appeal to residents of the city, yet despite recent developments the place has managed to maintain its distinctive character and charm.
One of the reasons this may be the case is an abundance of ardent local historians; they have charted the village’s narrative, and thereby ensured memory cannot be obliterated by change. And none more enthusiastic than Michael Seery who in 2011 published Enniskerry: A History. Now he has produced a second volume, Enniskerry: Archives, Notes and Stories from the Village which, in addition to featuring all the above contains many photographs and images of village and surrounding area over the centuries. It is a model of local history diligence and brio and commitment, and deserves to be widely read – and emulated.
To buy a copy of the book or to learn more about Enniskerry, see http://www.enniskerryhistory.org

Visitors Welcome

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Here is Russborough, County Wicklow, a house long close to my heart. Engraved from a drawing by John Preston Neale, this image appeared in the second series of Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in the United Kingdom published in 1826. Russborough opens to the public for the season tomorrow so do think of paying a visit in the coming months, whether by horse or other means of transport.