One of the best-known views of Curraghmore, County Waterford is the façade of the house, the top of which is adorned with the stag of St Hubert, a crucifix between its antlers. This figure is taken from the family crest of the de la Poers who are believed to have first come to Ireland along with other Norman settlers in the 12th century. Here is a photograph taken on the roof of the building and showing the other side of the stag. At some date a metal bar was inserted into the animals’s neck to prevent the head falling off. Meanwhile, Curraghmore’s garden front is likewise topped by a beast, in this instance a dragon with a broken spear through its neck. This comes from the Beresford crest: in 1717 Sir Marcus Beresford married Lady Catherine de la Poer, only child of James, third Earl of Tyrone. Again, repairs have been carried out to the work. Both the stag and dragon were made by Viennese-born sculptor Joseph Edgar Boehm, a favourite of the British royal family: he carved several statues of Queen Victoria and her daughter Princess Louise was one of his pupils (indeed he died in her house in London in 1890). Conveniently the back of the dragon carries the date 1st November 1872, presumably referring to when it was made rather than installed on Curraghmore’s roofline.
I thought that the unchaperoned Princess Louise was visiting Boehm in his house when he died; cue scandal. No?
Thank you for getting in touch. I read that he died while visiting Princess Louise – but perhaps it was the other way around. Certainly she was (alone) with him when he died, and this caused something of a stir…
There was a BBC TV programme about Queen Victoria recently. It emphasised how Victoria controlled her kids’ lives; even after marriage to (relative) pauper princes, the made them live with her at Windsor. Louise was more of a challenge; eventually she was allowed to go to Art School. Victoria made sure Louise didn’t get to the Life Classes by making her do all Victoria’s correspondence. The version I noted came from that source. Boehm died when trying to move a heavy bust or sculpture…it was said.
I am surprised at the adoption of the crucifix by a ‘Protestant’ family in the 1870’s, other depictions of the stag of Hubertus use a simple cross. When one considers the turbulent period in which this edifice was executed i.e. in the wake of the Irish Church Act (overseen by Archbishop Marcus Beresford), it becomes rather more audacious and provocative than it may at first appear.