Moments of Cork and Irish history on show at Whyte’s

Des O’Sullivan on the work of 19th century artist, James Mahony, who painted the major events of his time.

AN historic Cork painting by James Mahony — The Consecration of the Roman Catholic Church of St Mary’s, Pope’s Quay, Cork, c1842 — comes up at Whyte’s Irish and International art auction in Dublin on September 28.

Estimated at €8,000-€10,000 it has not been seen in public since it was shown at the RHA in 1842. It was presented to Kearns Deane, architect of St Mary’s and brother of Sir Thomas Deane and has been passed down though the Deane family to the present owner.

The historical significance of the work is that it shows an important public ceremony in a newly built catholic church shortly after Catholic emancipation.

It includes the figure of Daniel O’Connell in the congregation and is in its original frame. The foundation stone of St Mary’s was laid in 1832 and it opened in 1839.

The interior depicted is now slightly different. From 1868 to 1872 the rock behind the church was excavated and a larger apse constructed. The stained glass windows depicted have since been removed.

In catalogue notes, Julian Campbell recounts that James Mahony, born in Cork in either 1811 or 1817, is best known for his sparse and harrowing illustrations of the Great Famine for The Illustrated London News, where he was an artist and a reporter for many years.

He worked with oil and watercolour and his illustrations were admired by, among others, Vincent van Gogh. In 1841 he helped to establish the Cork Art Union and exhibited paintings of Italian views, architectural subjects and scenes from Shakespeare.

In 1846 one of his engravings was presented to Queen Victoria. He made illustrations of the funeral of Daniel O’Connell in 1847. Mahony painted happier scenes in Cork and its environs, for example Old Stone Bridge at Blarney, 1850 (Crawford Art Gallery), and Queen’s College (now UCC).

His large watercolours recording the visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to the Great Exhibition in Dublin in 1853, and his panoramic scene of Dublin taken from the spire of St George’s, Hardwick Place in 1854, are in the collection of the National Gallery.

Many of Mahony’s watercolours were collected by Captain GA Taylor and were bequeathed to the National Gallery in 1855.

The venue for Whyte’s art auction is the Minerva Suite of the RDS. The sale includes work by Charles Jervas, Thomas Hickey; Aloysius O’Kelly; William Orpen; John Lavery; Percy French; Mainie Jellett; Gerard Dillon; Norah McGuinness; John Shinnors; Rowan Gillespie and Edward Delaney.

Viewing is from 10am to 6pm next Saturday and on the following two days.


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