Getting Ahead

Powerscourt 2
We are fortunate that so much of the interior decoration has survived in Powerscourt House, Dublin designed in the first half of the 1770s by Robert Mack for Richard Wingfield, third Viscount Powerscourt. The interior of the house has rightly been called ‘schizophrenic’ by Christine Casey owing to a rich and eclectic style derived from a number of hands. The stair hall was decorated by James McCullagh assisted by Michael Reynolds and for work here and in a number of other rooms in the building his bill ran to over £730. An exuberant mélange of arabesque scrolls, urns, acanthus leaves, palms and portrait medallions, the stair hall is one of the city’s most madcap pieces of ornamentation. Unfortunately it is also one of the most difficult to examine, being excessively cluttered with signage and retail bric-a-brac…

Powerscourt 3

Mellowed by Time


An arched niche on one of the quadrants of Powerscourt House, Dublin. Dating from 1771-74 and designed by stone-cutter Robert Mack, the building’s front is entirely faced in granite from the 3rd Viscount Powerscourt’s Wicklow estate. Since 1981 Powerscourt House has been a shopping centre and while the interior is currently a mess of signage, at least the exterior remains relatively clear, allowing us to enjoy what Christine Casey has described as an example of ‘last-gasp Palladianism.’

Unfurling the Foliage


A section of the stair hall ceiling at Powerscourt House, Dublin. Designed in the early 1770s by Robert Mack, this served as the town residence for the Viscounts Powerscourt until sold to the government in 1807 for £500 less than it had cost to build. The house is rightly famous for its ebullient decoration, not least this ceiling by stuccodore James McCullagh which, along with the surrounding walls, features a riot of compartmentalised acanthus scrolls. The plasterwork in Powerscourt House is of superior quality but difficult to appreciate since the building, which has served as a shopping centre for the past three decades, is excessively cluttered with confusing signage.