A bronze life-size statue of George III as a Roman Emperor. Made by John van Nost the younger, this work was commissioned in 1765 by Hugh Percy, first Duke of Northumberland who for the two previous years had served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He paid van Nost 700 guineas for the work which was originally placed in the centre of the rotunda of the Royal Exchange (now City Hall) when that building, designed by Thomas Cooley, was completed in 1779. The statue was moved to one side of the space in 1864 (to make way for John Hogan’s statue of Daniel O’Connell) and then taken out altogether and put into storage in 1945. In 1988 it found a new home – in the car park of the Point Theatre on the north quays – before finally being offered on long-term loan by Dublin City Council in 1996 to the National Gallery of Ireland where it has remained ever since. The piece is significant for two reasons, the first being that other such work by van Nost, his statues of George II that once stood in both Dublin and Cork, has long since been destroyed. In addition it appears to be a true likeness of George III since the sculptor, on receiving the commission, went to London to make a model of the king from life. Readers can decide for themselves whether or not Thackeray was correct to describe the work as ‘a pert statue of George III in a Roman toga simpering and turning out his toes.’
Tag Archives: Irish Sculpture
A Shaggy Dog Story
The Massereene Hound, a carving believed to date from 1612. According to legend, not long after her marriage in 1607 to Sir Hugh Clotworthy of Antrim Castle, Mary Langford was walking alone in the woods when threatened by attack from a wolf. Fortunately at the same moment an Irish wolfhound appeared and saved Lady Clotworthy by killing the wolf. A second tale has it that the self-same wolfhound also ensured the Clotworthys were spared an assault on their castle by howling and thereby warning them of the imminent danger. Whatever the truth, the sculpture stood on the original castle until the 18th century when it was moved to one of the estate walls. It now stands on a plinth adjacent to the restored walled gardens.
The only full-length statue by French sculptor Louis-François Roubiliac can be found in Armagh Cathedral. It represents the doctor and philosopher Sir Thomas Molyneux, Physician General to the Army in Ireland and Regius Professor of Physic at Trinity College, Dublin who died in 1733. The work was commissioned some years later by his son Sir Capel Molyneux and after arriving in Ireland in 1752 was removed to the family seat, Castle Dillon, County Armagh where it was placed in a wood beneath a temporary wooden shelter, the idea being that a more permanent structure would be erected in the grounds. When this failed to materialise, the statue was moved to the vaults beneath the house. Finally when Castle Dillon was rebuilt in the early 1840s the statue was presented to Armagh Cathedral and placed in its present position. The plaque beneath the figure depicts a physician attending a bed-ridden patient, thereby emphasising Molyneux’s medical career. The inscription advises that he was ‘greatly distinguished in his generation for professional skill, varied learning and private worth.’
Sinuosity and Swagger
Often seen, seldom noticed: the lead statues above rusticated granite gateways flanking the Bedford Tower in Dublin Castle’s Upper Yard. Designed by John van Nost the Younger (d.1780) and dating from 1753, they represent Justice and Fortitude: the former, as was often noted by wags in the past, resolutely turns her back on the city. Both have all the sinuosity and swagger of the rococo era, Fortitude in particular might have stepped straight out of a Tiepolo canvas. They are especially precious as the only remaining examples of van Nost’s public art (other work, such as the equestrian statue of George II that once stood in the centre of St Stephen’s Green, having long since been blown up or removed).