Studying the Classics

Often overlooked by visitors to Cork’s Crawford Art Gallery is the institution’s remarkable collection of classical sculpture casts. Derived from those in the Vatican, the casts were made on the instructions of Pope Pius VII and under the supervision of Antonio Canova. They were originally presented to Britain’s Prince Regent (the future George IV) but he having no desire for them, the casts languished until William Hare, Lord Ennismore (later first Earl of Listowel), then President of the Cork Society of Arts persuaded the Prince to have the collection shipped to Ireland where they duly arrived in 1818. Initially displayed inside a converted theatre on Patrick Street, the casts subsequently passed into the care of the Cork School of Art and thus came to reside in what is now the Crawford Gallery. Above, the Belvedere Torso can be seen through the form of the Lancellotti Discobolus. The latter also figures below, sighted beyond the Borghese Gladiator and the Apollo Belvedere.


2 comments on “Studying the Classics

  1. Bob Frewen says:

    Thanks, interesting to learn of their origin. Few of the Georges had any appreciation of the arts. George I, when declining to allow a poem to be dedicated to him said in his thick German accent “I hate all boets and bainters” George III reportedly said “Hogarth? A painter? I hate painting, and poetry too: neither the one nor the other ever did any good.”
    George IV at least had the grace to send the ‘Vatican’ statues to a good home, unlike his younger brother William IV who treated another peripatetic statue shamefully. William IV commissioned Sir Francis Chantrey to create a marble statue of his former mistress Dora Jordan nee Bland (daughter of a Kerry man) by whom he had 10 children as a memorial to be placed in Westminster Abbey. His plans for placing the statue there were blocked as was one for St Paul’s Cathedral. Never collected from the studio, it sat there until Chantrey died. It was then moved to a small country church where William & Dora’s youngest son was vicar. After his death (1854) its whereabouts are unknown until it surfaced in 1956, in the possession of a direct descendant of Mrs Jordan and William IV, the 5th Earl of Munster who kept it in his garden in Surrey. When he died in 1975 he bequeathed it to Queen Elizabeth II who had it installed in its present location, the picture gallery at Buckingham Palace.
    George IV at least had a sense of humour. On its publication, Moore’s “Life of Sheridan” was said to have murdered its subject; George remarked “He has certainly attempted his life.

  2. Hoof Hearted says:

    I visited Crawford recently, and was unaware that these casts existed or of their origin. I did feel a little underwhelmed with the way they were displayed, it was all a little cramped. Sculpture needs space to breathe. They would be best suited to a long gallery setting. Perhaps the Irish Aesthete could suggest a more spacious vacant space?

Leave a Reply