An introduction to Irish frames – Part 1: from early borders to Palladianism

by The Frame Blog

The question of Irish frames – that is, specifically Irish-made and/or -designed frames – is a sticky one. There are vast lacunae, especially in the history of the sacred arts in Ireland, as it was invaded successively by Vikings in the 9th and 10th centuries, the Normans under Henry II in the 12th century, the Scots in the 14th century, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I in the 16th century, and by Cromwell and William of Orange in the 17th century. During these various incursions (during some more than others, of course), churches and monasteries were looted and burned, and treasures such as altarpieces stolen or destroyed, so that whatever early sacred paintings or carved retables there might have been are long gone.

Frames and borders for sacred art

Christ enthroned, from the Book of Kells, folio 32 verso, c.800 AD, c. 33 x 25.5 cm., Faksimile-Verlag from the original in Trinity College Dublin (this facsimile is larger & clearer than other images of the original)

As in England, where there are as few as four early polychrome retables remaining to us [1], and more alabaster altarpieces survive in the countries they were exported to than in their native home, the development of early art in Ireland has to be looked at on the slant. Instead of altarpieces, then, the Book of Kells might be a good (and very early place) to begin. It may possibly have been made (or partly made) in Scotland rather than in Ireland, since the mother house of the community which probably created it was located on Iona; however, after a fatal Viking raid on this monastery, a branch was founded in Ireland, at Kells, around the period from which the book dates. It was made by three or more artists, and the work may have been shared between the two houses, so it is a piece of floating evidence: definitely Celtic, at all events. It contains the four books of gospels in Latin, from the 4th century Vulgate version (that was what St Jerome was doing in his study, with his lion – translating the gospels), with small textual and whole-page illustrations.

Christ enthroned, from the Book of Kells, detail

The portrait of Christ is framed in an intricate border of intertwining zoömorphic scrolls and frets, from which paws, tails, claws and expressive heads emerge. Bands of complex ornament like this can be found on Celtic weapons, jewellery, and other metalwork; for instance, in the Sutton Hoo burial, which was located the whole diagonal width of England and Wales away from the home of the Book of Kells.  The ornament neatly conforms to whatever shaped space is given it, folding animal-headed swirls of pre- (very pre-) Art Nouveau knots into semi-circles, paving the space of outset corners, filling shield-like bosses. Christ’s attendant seraphs and peacocks (the latter symbolizing his resurrection) dissolve into the cascades and tributaries of rippling decoration, leaving only the monumental figure of Christ in His plain Byzantine robes to emerge clearly. Standing back from this wealth of background ornament, however, it is also possible to see that His figure is surrounded by a cruciform shape, formed by the reversed L-shaped vertical bands rising from His feet to His chest, and pointed out by the small lunettes at the centre of each side. Christ is both crucified and enthroned.

The Book of Kells originally had a cover or shrine: a golden box, chased with similar ornament to the MS illustrations, and possibly set with semi-precious stones, or enamelled motifs. In 1007 it was stolen for the sake of this shrine, and later found coverless where it had been buried. The existence of the lost cover, however, introduces another strand of sacred art which can stand in for lost altarpieces, and which – like the miniatures in the book itself – employs decorative borders which may be considered as frames. Several examples of these Irish shrines or book boxes still exist (they were easier to hide than larger church furnishings); they echo similarly elaborate Continental bindings or réliures with pictorial and sculptural elements, sometimes set with gemstones or picked out with coloured enamels.

Stowe Book Shrine (11th century & 14th century) for the Stowe Missal (9th century), and the lower face of the shrine, silvered copper alloy, c.1027-33, Royal Irish Academy

The book shrine for the Stowe Missal was made later than the missal itself, and consists of an oak box with an 11th century back (the ‘lower face’), which has been divided from the body of the box and is displayed separately. The sides – which are contemporaneous – are embellished like this face, with pierced panels (knot patterns and frets), and with silver-gilt panels of bishops, warriors, angels and animals. The lower face itself has a large cross in the centre, set on a pierced ground of  geometric motifs, and the junctions of the ends of the cross with the outer ‘frame’ are picked out with silver-gilt knot motifs and studs, echoing the ornamental corner cassettes.  Both the cross and the ‘frame’ are inscribed in Irish, although some of this inscription has been destroyed by the later addition of the setting for a stone in the centre of the cross:

‘It asks for a prayer for the abbot of Lorrha, Mathgamain Ua Cathail (+1037) and for Find Ua Dúngalaigh, king of Múscraige Tíre (+1033). It also mentions Donnchadh mac Briain, styled ‘king of Ireland’ and Mac Raith Ua Donnchada, king of the Eoganacht of Cashel (+1052) as well as the name of the maker, Donnchadh Ua Taccáin ‘of the community of Cluain (Clonmacnoise).’ [2]

This call for prayer is an anticipation of those picture frames which surround, say, depictions of the Madonna and Child, and are inscribed with an invocation to her to pray for the petitioner – usually in the words of the Hail Mary, ‘Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum…’  The border of the shrine is thus rather like a flat cassetta with a slight outer moulding and corner motifs, and a text which interacts, so to speak, with the image.

Stowe Book Shrine: the upper face of the shrine, silver-gilt, rock crystals, glass and ivory, c.1371-81, Royal Irish Academy

The upper face or front of the shrine is much later, dating from the 1370s, and is occupied strikingly by the jewelled silver-gilt stone-set cross in the centre.  However, the ground also contains, like a small altarpiece, pictorial panels engraved with the Crucifixion, two clerics, and the Madonna and Child, and is contained within another inscribed ‘frame’ which even mentions the silversmith:

‘The inscription invokes a prayer for Pilib Ó Ceinnéidigh, ‘king of Ormond’ and his wife Áine, both of whom died in 1381. It also refers to Giolla Ruadhán Ó Macáin, abbot of the Augustinian priory of Lorrha and the maker, Domhnall Ó Tolairi.’ [3]

Shrine of the Cathach, late 11th century with 14th century additions, National Museum of Ireland

Shrine of the Miosach, back and sides late 11th century, bronze and enamel, front 1534, silver and rock crystals, National Museum of Ireland

Other examples of book shrines bear an even closer resemblance to altarpieces – for example, the  Shrine of the Cathach, top, which was made for an early translation of the Book of Psalms with an added exegesis, the case protecting it when it was carried into battle as a holy amulet. Both this and the Shrine of the Miosach include scenes of the Crucifixion, and the figures of clerics and kings or saints, held within arched or canopied frameworks, which anticipate or echo the form of carved and painted wooden polyptychs [4]. The front of the Shrine of Miosach, with its low-relief figural scenes in an architectural setting, outer decorated moulding and sculptural crucifixion, brings the genre up to the first half of the 16th century, and stands in for larger works which have been lost.

In England it is possible to look at a number of surviving wooden rood screens to expand upon the very few altarpieces which remain to us, but unfortunately,

‘Not a single medieval wooden rood screen survives from Ireland, but evidence for their former existence can be seen in many churches in the form of corbels or beam-holes in the walls and windows or stairs that served them.’ [5]

Rood screen, 1480, St Edmund’s church, Southwold, Suffolk. Photo by Adrian Neve, with thanks

This is an image of an English rood screen from 1480, which gives at least a strong indication of what was lost in Ireland, and also of the style; there would presumably have been local differences in the ornamental details of woodwork, gesso work and painting. It is from East Anglia, the same neck of the woods as the Sutto Hoo burial, mentioned above in connection with the zoömorphic decoration of the Book of Kells.

The Boyle Monument, 1630-32, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

The only other frame-like structures which survive in Irish churches are the grand stone monuments to aristocratic families – although even these have undergone removal, diminution, repositioning and demolition over the course of centuries. The Boyle Monument (1630-32) survives in St Patrick’s Cathedral, although it has travelled round the building, spent some time in storage, and undergone a restoration which included alterations and losses. However, the skeleton of it (so to speak) still rears formidably high against its present stretch of wall. It is classicizing, with Mannerist elements in its overall form, the individual tiers, and the proportion of such things as the depth of the major entablature. It bears some relationship to, for example, the 1608+ monument to Bess of Hardwick in Derby Cathedral, which is both more Mannerist and more opulent  ; although, of course, the Boyle Monument may have been considerably more splendid when first erected. Like Bess’s tomb, it may also have found echoes in the family home of Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork, Lismore Castle, but any influence this style may have had has been lost in subsequent upheavals.

The scale of loss of any early screens and altarpieces, and the state of continuing – if sporadic – wars over two hundred years, meant that it was only with the establishment of the Protestant ascendancy from perhaps the 1660s-70s onwards that a more settled aristocracy and gentle class began to build and furnish large- and medium-scale houses, and to fill them with art.  Even then, many objects, including framed paintings, were imported from England, but (just as in the American colonies) indigenous carvers, gilders and artists were soon to start setting up their own workshops and studios. Patterns of frames were naturally copied from those fashionable in London; but – again, just as with colonial craftsmen – local variants of these styles also developed quite quickly. It should be pointed out, however, that styles also lingered past the date at which they had become unfashionable in England, and that the Palladian style, for example, seems to have existed alongside late, flamboyant Rococo and early NeoClassicism; also that the replication of styles makes it quite difficult to label specific frames as of one distinct nationality.

Frames in the 17th century

Killadoon, built from 1767-71 for the 1st Earl of Leitrim, son of the entrepreneur and housing speculator Nathaniel Clements, provides examples of a collection in which little has changed since the 18th or early 19th century, the 3rd Earl having closed many of the rooms in the 1860s and 1870s. It is one of an arc of large houses to the west of Dublin, which includes Castletown House, Leixlip Castle and Luttrelstown Castle, some of which have already fallen to tax and maintenance costs, and have become hotels.

Thomas Murray (attrib.; 1663-1735), Henry Stewart as a boy, 1670s, o/c, 49 ¾ x 39 7/8 ins (126.5 x 101.2 cm.), Sotheby’s, 21 January 2020, Lot 58

Killadoon itself saw many of its preserved treasures sold at Sotheby’s ‘Royal and Noble’ auction (21 January 2020), including the portrait above (apparently an early one for Ireland), attributed to the artist Thomas Murray. But Murray was in fact Scottish; he made his life in London and visited Italy, but almost certainly never came to Dublin. The family of the sitter was also Scottish, his grandfather and great-uncle having bought estates in Co. Tyrone in the 17th century (a later generation intermarrying with the Clements of Killadoon).  Together, these facts suggest that the portrait was actually painted, and probably also framed, outside Ireland. Furthermore, this style of frame became generally popular from the 1680s, indicating that the portrait of Henry Stewart may have been reframed after the date when it was painted. This one example vividly illustrates the various implications which have constantly to be borne in mind when deciding whether a frame is ‘Irish’ or ‘English’. In consequence, it is generally the more spectacular designs (including trophy frames) which have been used to chart a timeline of historic Irish frame styles, and of course those rare examples which are documented. The frame on the Murray portrait is very much in contemporary fashionable taste: it is an enriched panel frame (also known by association as a ‘Lely’ frame), with shallow-relief foliate ornament alternating with shell-like spurts of gadrooning on the panels or reposes. This style is often seen with the profile reversed, as a bolection moulding, and continued to be produced across Britain into the early years of the 18th century.

Godfrey Kneller (after; 1646/9-1723), Queen Anne, c.1700, Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire, NT

It can be compared with a very similar and definitely English frame, only with different ornament in the foliate corners and centres, on a portrait of Queen Anne after Kneller of around 1700. The Killadoon frame is, for all the foregoing reasons,  altogether more likely to have been imported than made locally, but (like other imports) might have provided a template for this style in Dublin.

Dining-room of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin, with suite of portraits

A series of related panel frames, which have a far greater likelihood of having been made in Ireland, was commissioned, like the portraits they frame, between 1690 and 1734. There were originally twenty-two portraits (not all in the same style of frame, however), which hung around the 100-foot central space of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin, known at various times as the Great Hall, the Refectory or the Dining-room. The hospital was built in 1684 to house veteran soldiers, and continued to serve this purpose for well over two centuries.

17th century British School, Prince George of Denmark, Dining-room of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin

The Dining-room was lined with wainscot finished with faux oak-grain (now painted white) [6], above which hung the portraits – of monarchs, princes and viceroys of Ireland. The panel frames have relatively large and (compared with the detail in the paintings) quite coarse floral decoration between the plain reposes, but the spiral ribbon at the sight is crisp, with paired spirals, and the pierced scrolling foliate flourishes at the corners and centres are exuberant, energetic, and draw the eye to the portraits within.

Dining-room of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham between 1865 and 1914, and detail; photographed by Robert French; National Library of Ireland (Photographs) 

When the scheme was new, during the late 17th and first third of the 18th century, with the portraits fresh and lighter in tone, the frames newly gilded, and the lower half of the hall covered in darker wood-grain, the whole effect must have been magnificent in the extreme. A photo taken in the late 19th or early 20th century, looking towards the main door, gives a flavour of its sombre military grandeur. The door and case were also made of oak, with a musical trophy carved in the tympanum above it, and the Royal arms above that.  The frames shine out from this setting, like the real military trophies which line the walls beneath them, and they certainly seem to have the best claim to be the earliest surviving examples of an indigenous Irish take on contemporary fashion.

A carver of great skill and verve is associated with the Royal Hospital at this period: James (Jacques) Tabary, ‘who is recorded as sculptor in Paris during the 1670s’ [7], and travelled via London to Dublin in 1682. That same year, Tabary, a ‘carver and native of France’ was made Freeman of the city of Dublin, and when his brothers John (Jean) and Louis followed him in 1685 (the year of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which removed State protection from Huguenots in France),  they similarly received the Freedom of Dublin as sculptor and carver respectively [8].

The reredos and altar screen, Chapel, Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin. Photos: William Murphy

Tabary was paid £250 in 1686 for carving the altar rail, the reredos, altar screen and communion table (the latter is now in the National Museum of Ireland) for the chapel of the Royal Hospital. He apparently used Irish oak for the whole structure – a hard wood, both in terms of its physical state and the difficulty of carving it (Grinling Gibbons, whose name may have been appended to work which was actually Tabary’s, used soft limewood for his carvings) – but then in France the most usual wood for frames in the 17th and 18th centuries was oak.

Interior of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin, engraving, no date, and detail, National Library of Ireland (Prints & Drawings)

An early 19th century print in the National Library of Ireland shows the reredos and altar screen, the latter with a large Baroque cartouche rearing above it, and mounted either on top of the screen itself, or behind it. This was presumably also Tabary’s work, and perhaps carried the armorial bearings of the Duke of Ormonde, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who founded the hospital on the model of Les Invalides in Paris and finessed the king (James II) into becoming its patron [9].

The altar screen, Chapel, Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin. Photos: William Murphy

Andrea Palladio, The first book of architecture: translated out of Italian… by Pr Le Muet Architect to the French King; translated out of French by G[odfrey] Richards], 1683, plate 177

The altar screen as it exists now consists of an outer classical aedicular frame with Corinthian columns and pedestal, within which is a Mannerist aedicule with pilaster panels and segmental pediment.  Tessa Murdoch has traced the source of the design for the inner framework of the altar screen to ‘A Doore according to the Corinthian Order’, plate 177 of Palladio’s First book of architecture, a French translation of which was published in 1646, and an English version of the French translation in 1683 [10]. The basic structure of the screen is very like this design, as far as the segmental pediment and the columns in the outer structure go, but Tabary was evidently imaginative enough to leap far beyond the meagre ornamental door frame provided by Palladio to a form richly embellished with a double guilloche in each pilaster panel, substantial acanthus-decorated modillions supporting the pediment, and a deep ogee frieze of interlinked fluting.

A cherub spreads his wings and gazes down from the pediment at the empty space this richness defines; although that space was almost certainly intended to hold either the Commandments or the Lord’s Prayer illuminated in gold leaf on a parchment or panel.

Grinling Gibbons (attrib.; 1648-1721), reredos with panels: Our Father, ten commandments, Creed, St Margaret Lothbury, City of London; originally in St Olave, Old Jewry, London

A comparable reredos is installed in St Margaret Lothbury, London; it is attributed to Grinling Gibbons, and is  more or less contemporary with Tabary’s altar screen in the Royal Hospital. It has very similar Corinthian columns and segmental pediments, and the text panels still in place demonstrate the  purpose of Tabary’s screen. Panels like these, with the decalogue, prayers or quotations from the Bible, were a feature of Huguenot churches in the Netherlands, Germany and France. Four panels can also be found, fitted into Gothic cusped niches beside the east window of St Carthage’s Cathedral, Lismore, Co Waterford.

The outer frame of the altar screen was capped with the immense bulbous cartouche seen in the engraving above, the (foliate?) scrolls at the top echoing the scrolls and modillions on the main reredos. The acanthus modillions which Tabary added to Palladio’s design for his altar screen not only repeat the latter, but are almost identical to the modillions supporting the ceiling in the Dining-room of the Royal Hospital over the heads of the suite of portraits, thus connecting the two rooms together – as the oak carvings and faux oak-grain of the Dining-room panelling echoed the oak of the reredos and its furnishings [11]. The whole interior of the Hospital was evidently conceived as an integrated scheme, with one major craftsman in charge; thus it is possible that Tabary also executed some of the frames – or perhaps employed his brother Louis for this continuing project.

Irish furniture: woodwork & carving in Ireland… by the Knight of Glin, on which much of this article is reliant, includes an appendix of craftsmen assembled by John Rogers, part of which is devoted to ‘Cabinet-makers, chair-makers, joiners, picture-frame makers and trunk-makers’, while another section records ‘Carvers, turners, gilders, japanners, glass grinders and looking-glass sellers’ [12]. The entries include their addresses (mainly in Dublin, but also occasionally in Limerick, Cork, Belfast, Drogheda, etc.), dates recorded at those addresses, quotes from surviving labels or adverts, and references to, for instance, legal involvements of the craftsmen (marriages, mortgages, defaulting apprentices). They all worked in the 18th century; and it is notable how few references survive anywhere to craftsmen with dates in the late 17th century, apart from the immigrant Tabarys. Richard Cranfield, first of three generations of carvers, was made a Freeman of the City of Dublin in 1707 [13], which seems to be equivalent to becoming a master in England, or maître in France; he must have been working for quite a while before this date to acquire sufficient skill and reputation to merit it. Then there were three Roses, William, James and Nicholas, who made looking-glasses, and became Freemen in 1680, 1690 and 1699 respectively; and a couple of other late-17th century glass makers, all of whom might presumably have produced picture frames too, even if as a sporadic side product.

Frames in the 18th century: the Houghtons & trophy frames

Henry Houghton was another carver born in the 17th century, again one of a dynasty – the eldest of three generations of Houghtons – who is noted as working in Golden Lane, Dublin, from 1720 to 1727, when he may have retired, and also for unspecified work for Trinity College, Dublin, in 1712-13.[14] H was made a Freeman of the City of Dublin in 1724 [15].

Henry Houghton (died c.1727?) or John Houghton (fl.1729-died 1761), Organ trophy, 1724, St Michan’s Church, Dublin

A recorded payment to Henry Houghton for repairing the altar rails of St Michan’s Church in Dublin has suggested that he was also responsible for the carved trophy of musical instruments on the gallery in front of the organ in the same church; although this has also been given to John Houghton, Henry’s son, who was working from an address in the same street from 1726-29, probably having shared and then taken over his father’s workshop[16].

(?) John Houghton (fl.1729-died 1761), caryatid, one of a pair, chimneypiece, 1729, old House of Lords, Dublin

John Houghton worked on the interior of the Irish Houses of Parliament in Dublin, designed in Palladian style by Edward Lovett Pearce, a cousin and pupil of Vanbrugh. Pearce seems to have been in large part responsible for introducing the Palladian interior to Ireland, in the form of ‘Kent’ integrated architectural elements (chimneypieces, doorcases, ceilings, and framed wall panels) [17]. Of his Houses of Parliament, only the House of Lords now remains; it was leased to the Bank of Ireland for some time, undergoing various alterations. A chimneypiece here may still sport some of Houghton’s work in the heads of the supporting caryatides; a fraction of the interior carving he provided for both Houses [18].

John Houghton (fl.1729-died 1761), carved wooden overmantel frame, 1740s, Curraghmore, County Waterford 

Further chimneypieces and overmantels (such as the one above, and in some cases containing sculptural reliefs) are by or attributed to John Houghton, and reveal the scope of his workshop, both in the kind and quality of its output, and the locations of his work.

Whichever Houghton was, therefore, responsible for the organ trophy in St Michan’s church, the latter is a bravura piece of work, and indicates the level of skill available in Ireland by the 1720s. It also reveals that the influences exerted on British fashion either from Europe or through its native craftsmen diffused equally quickly to Ireland.

Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721), musical trophy, 1690s, Petworth House, NT

Henry or John Houghton, Organ trophy, 1724, St Michan’s Church

It seems unlikely that the carver of this trophy could have been unaware, through engravings, drawings, direct or indirect contact, of the work of Grinling Gibbons: for example, the musical trophy at Petworth, with its very similar combination (even disposition, saving the different overall form and purpose) of violin, wind instruments and open book of music.

Adriaen Collaert after Jan van der Straet, Encomium Musices, plate 2, c.1589, engraving, Museum Plantin-Moretus, Antwerp

G. Brakel, title page with musical trophies for Claas Douwes (c.1650-c.1725), Grondig ondersoek van de toonen der musijk, or A thorough examination of music, 1699

As well as by contact between carvers, or study of their work, patterns for carved motifs and trophies were transmitted from country to country through the importing of books of ornament, printed frontispieces, and engraved portraits: sometimes through the means of decorations in a book intended for quite other uses, such as these publications on music. The example at the top of these two, which appeared around 1589, would have had more than ample time in which to circulate to Ireland; the plate illustrated here presents the musical notation through three personifications (Harmony, Music and Measure) set against an arrangement of instruments which include, unusually, three harps – something not found in Gibbons’s work, but one of which is central to, if at the back of, the St Michan’s trophy.

Examples of trophies or emblems which feature specifically in engraved or etched portrait prints were often used in the ‘frames’ or borders of the portraits to convey some of the sitter’s characteristics, or information about his career and lineage – even his nationality.

Simon de Passe (1595-1647),  Sir Walter Raleigh, engraving published 1617, 18.3 x 11.5 cm. plate, National Portrait Gallery

Jonas Suyderhoef (c.1613-86) after Gerrit van Honthorst, published by (& frame possibly by) Pieter Claesz Soutman, Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, Count of Nassau, etching, mid-17th century, 44.1 x 35.7 cm. plate, National Portrait Gallery

Caspar Luyken (1672-1708), Portrait of Kangxi, emperor of China, 1698, etching, 17.2 x 11.2 cm., Rijksmuseum

Pieter Sluyter (1675-1715) after Arnold Houbraken, Portrait of Jan Luyken, 1712-13, etching/engraving, Rijksmuseum

The four prints above, which cover almost a century from 1617 to 1712/13, begin with the portrait of ‘the honourable and learned knight’, Sir Walter Raleigh, the frame indicating his naval exploits in the weapons at the upper corners, and his travels by the exotic shell and unrolling map in the bottom corners. His rank and family are expressed through the armorial bearings beneath the portrait. The portrait of the Prince of Orange from the mid-17th century also includes his coat of arms, held in the Order of the Garter and capped with his crown, and translates his military prowess into a collection of classical and contemporary arms – shields, swords, helmets, cannon, banners, corselets, a morning star and a ship – presented much like a wooden frame, carved in three dimensions with these attributes and the putti who hold them. The Chinese emperor has given the artist fewer clues to his character and interests, but this is made up for by a frame of energetically writhing dragons supporting his crown. Finally, the artist, engraver and poet Jan Luyken is portrayed with the symbols of his defining religious experience in the upper corners (the Sacred Heart and the Cross), and the materials of his various professions at the bottom – books, paper, a palette, paints, brushes and engraving tools. One of the muses on the left points to the children on the right who learn from his works (being literally enlightened by the figure of Hermes directing light onto them through a magnifying glass).

John van Beaver (director of weaving, fl.1727-50), Portrait of George II, 1732-37, 29 ¾ x 23 ¾ ins (75.6 x 60.3 cm.), wool & silk, possibly woven in workshop of Robert Baillie (fl.1727-35); frame attrib. John Houghton(fl.1726-died 1761), Metropolitan Museum, New York

This use of explanatory motifs and emblems, transmitted through an increasing tide of printed material, but also expressed through sculpture such as the St Michan’s organ trophy and various carved tympana, lies behind the military trophy frame attributed to Henry Houghton’s son John for a tapestry portrait of George II, and for at least two more trophy or attributive frames for ecclesiastical portraits.

It is difficult to assess John Houghton’s age; he became a Freeman of the city in 1748, and before that had won the Dublin Society Prize twice, in 1741 and 1742 [19]: and if the tapestry frame is indeed his, then, because of the date, the prize could not have been awarded for youthful achievements. It’s a particularly vivid and sculptural frame, the carving mature and very assured, and the military emblems composed in a relatively confined space (it’s just over four-&-a-half feet high overall, or about 140 cms). It belonged for an indeterminate time to the Weavers’ Guild in Dublin, where it was hung in the new hall erected in 1745, along with a collection of other notable portraits, rather like the portraits in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

Tapestry portraits were – it might be said – a thing: a minor, esoteric and exclusive genre of portraiture which the Mortlake tapestry manufactory by the Thames at Richmond had executed extremely well in the 17th century, producing framed portraits of their founder and director,  Sir Francis Crane (c.1626-36), and at least one reproduction of Van Dyck’s double portrait of himself with Endymion Porter (post c.1633) complete with the frame he had designed for it.  By the time the last quarter of the 18th century was hoving into view and poor doomed Louis XVI was set in thread, in a remarkable oval giltwood trophy frame, the definition obtainable in wool had achieved a very high resolution. Van Beaver’s and Baillie’s portrait of George II is not of this order, nor of the calibre of the Mortlake tapestries, pre-fading; but the frame marks it out as a work of great symbolic importance. The weavers and their guild had wielded power in Dublin, contributing to the governing of the city, and producing a vast, exportable, profitable range of fabrics of all sorts to which immigrant Huguenot weavers, escaping France after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, brought their skills as silk weavers. The portrait, and the later statue of George II sited in front of the Weavers’ Hall in 1750, expressed the guild’s loyalty to their king, but would also have been seen as a plea for his patronage and protection.

John Houghton (attrib.), frame of tapestry Portrait of George II, and detail

The frame, therefore, attaches the royal crown to the crest, as in a formal coronation portrait, and adds two beautifully-chased and plumed helmets and two pairs of armoured gauntlets, depending from trompe l’oeil twisted and tasselled cords, at the sides.  They refer to George’s right to exercise military power – and in 1743 he did indeed become the last British king to lead his army into battle (against the French). These emblems are set on the polished wooden frieze of a Palladian or ‘Kent’ frame, with a characteristically large egg-&-dart top edge, outset corners, a swan’s neck pediment, and a flower-enriched spiral ribbon at the oval sight edge.  Carved drops of oak leaves and acorns, signifying the king’s symbolic strength, depend from the scrolled brackets at the back edge, and trompe l’oeil ‘woven’ and fringed banners give added room for inscriptions to the scrolled cartouche at the base [20]. The beauty and skillful execution of this frame transforms a portrait little better than a pub sign into a glorious work of art.

Francis Bindon (died 1765), Portrait of Jonathan Swift, 1739; frame by John Houghton (fl.1726-died 1761), & detail, St Patrick’s Deanery, Dublin

John Houghton’s next trophy frame was the much larger example carved for Francis Bindon’s portrait of Dean Swift. Like the Weavers’ Guild frame, it’s a Palladian design, its weighty architectural mouldings and flat frieze used as the basis for a striking assemblage of objects carved almost – or completely – in the round. The outset corners of the earlier frames are dispensed with, probably in order to give emphasis to the two cartouches at top and bottom.

Coat of arms of Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) on the 1729/30 document granting him Freedom of the City of Dublin (top), and in the carved armorial bearings at the base of his portrait frame (bottom)

The lower cartouche holds Swift’s own coat of arms on the sinister side, with the figure of a bishop (or a dean) on the dexter [21], just as it appears in the parchment with his own grant of the Freedom of the City. The upper cartouche has the diocesan arms of Dublin, with St Patrick and his staff, which grew into a flourishing ash tree in the time it took for him to convert a community in England. Both cartouches are sculptural and dynamic, with scrolls which curl energetically in the space before the frame, and are echoed by fronds of palm and fern, and spiralling motifs which seem like the missing link between Auricular and Rococo ornament (this is compounded by the animal hide-like, ‘leatherwork’ shape of the upper cartouche).

The two lateral rails are filled with four carved cords on each side, twisted together at the top over trompe l’oeil nails and ending in tassels, again like the cords on the Weavers’ Guild frame. Lodged amongst them or depending from them are all the emblems of Jonathan Swift’s life. Scrolls of paper hold quill pens near the top; below these are books, and on the left the caduceus – the winged staff wound with two snakes and carried by Hermes, the messenger of the gods, associated with wit and eloquent writing. On the opposite side is a hawk, also associated with Hermes. The centres are formed by two opposed Irish harps, and a lyre below on the left connecting Swift with Homer: Hermes was also supposed to have invented the lyre. On the right another snake climbs up towards the hawk [22], and the gaps between all these objects are filled with more books and quill pens.  The sight edge moulding is a spiralling leaf and floret. The whole piece is an extraordinarily beautifully-conceived and -made object, which combines motifs which are at once realistic, decorative and symbolic. It outclasses the painting it holds by a factor of at least ten; although apparently the influence of Swift himself on his portraitist caused Bindon to produce what is cited at his best painting. Frame and painting were both commissioned by William St Lawrence, Lord Howth, a great friend of Swift, who paid £18. 13s. for the frame (the artist got £36. 16s.) [23].

British School (attrib. Bartholomew Dandridge), Sir John Chardin, 1746, 138 x 138 cm., History of Science Museum, Oxford. Photo: Ashmolean Museum

The Knight of Glin makes the point that,

‘the only frame in England with any similarity [to the Houghton  non-military trophy frame of Swift’s portrait] is one of Sir John Chardin in Oxford which shows mathematical instruments’ [24].

This also has the structure of a Palladian or Kent frame, with outset corners, but it has no unifying cord or ribbon holding the trophies, which are single arrangements placed just at the centres of the lateral rails..

Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), Portrait of William III, c.1695, 214 x 150 cm., Dining-room, Royal Hospital Chelsea

However, trophy frames as a class have a long history, which includes instances such as the Auricular frame on Kneller’s portrait of William III, now in the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, but formerly at Bramshill House near Reading. The portrait would presumably have entered the collection at Bramshill during the ownership of Sir Andrew Henley, a politician, from 1673, or his successor, Sir John Cope, also a politician and later Director of the Bank of England, from 1699.

Kneller, Portrait of William III, c.1695; Bindon, Portrait of Jonathan Swift, 1739; G. Brakel, title page with musical trophies for Claas Douwes, Grondig ondersoek van de toonen der musijk, 1699; details

Although this particular frame uses the original military type of trophy, and although the underlying structure has the fluid form of a curling animal hide (morphing into scrolling shells and vertebrate fishy shapes) rather than an architectural Palladian form, the trophies themselves are arranged in groups down wide sashes or ribbons depending from fishlike mouths at the top and ending in tassels at the bottom, with a coat of arms at the top – fundamentally the same arrangement as on the frame of Swift’s portrait. This is also the arrangement found in engraved prints bordered with trophies, or – for example – in the title page of books, such as Claas Douwes, Grondig ondersoek van de toonen der musijk, 1699, previously cited.

Francis Bindon, Portrait of Bishop Boulter preaching to the inhabitants of the poor house, 1741-42; frame attrib. John Houghton (fl.1726-died 1761), Provost’s House, Trinity College, Dublin. Photo by Norah Quinton, with thanks; courtesy of the Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast

Another trophy frame attributed to John Houghton holds a second portrait by Francis Bindon, also of a cleric – Bishop Boulter. Again, this is constructed with a Palladian base, although with very slender rails and outset corners, but in this case the pendant trophies, slung on tasselled cords, have been moved outwards – appearing to float beside the lateral rails of the frame in insubstantial grace, depending from trompe l’oeil hooks at the top corners. It is apparently carved from mahogany, although this is obscured by its having been stained on the frieze and the ornaments painted black, save for the sight edge and armorial bearings.

The portrait of Hugh Boulter, Archbishop of Armagh, was painted to commemorate his part in relieving sufferers during the 1740-41 famine [25], and it hung in the Dublin Foundling Hospital. He died in 1742, and his contemporaneous monument in Westminster Abbey is also decorated with trophies (although the underlying style is Rococo rather than Palladian)  . They comprise a crozier and anchor (for Hope), a mitre, censer, and festoons of oak leaves. The decorations in the spandrels are now very worn and difficult to read, but may include St Patrick’s ash tree growing from his staff, as in the Bindon portrait of Swift.

Francis Bindon, Portrait of Bishop Boulter, left-hand side. Photo by Norah Quinton, with thanks; courtesy of the Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast

The Boulter portrait trophies include, on the left-hand side, a scroll, a Bible or prayer book, a dove, bay leaves, a cornucopia overflowing with fruit and wheat, oak leaves and acorns, a folded pouch from which empty communion wafers, a flagon for communion wine, and the ears of wheat from which the wafers are made.

Francis Bindon, Portrait of Bishop Boulter, right-hand side. Photo by Norah Quinton, with thanks; courtesy of the Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast

On the right-hand side are another scroll, an open and a closed book, another cornucopia and dove, a communion chalice and a netted purse showering forth coins (the leaves are the same as on the left). At the crest the bishop’s mitre surmounts the arms of Armagh impaled with Boulter’s own arms. Sunflower paterae decorate the corners, and the apron is a series of trompe l’oeil swags of drapery. The style of carving is perhaps less fluent and also less detailed than (for instance) the caryatides in the old House of Lords, the Weavers’ Guild frame, or the frame for Bindon’s Jonathan Swift, but this may be the result of a successful workshop practice.

More on Palladian  frames

Castletown House, c.1890, and detail. Photo: Robert French, National Library of Ireland: NLI Ref.: L_ROY_05652

The Palladian style of all these various frames – a style which seems to have been particularly popular in Ireland, from James Tabary’s 1686 altar screen and table onwards – was encapsulated in the first Palladian house to be built there, in the 1720s: Castletown, near Dublin.  A single glance at the façade (which was designed by the Italian architect Alessandro Gallei) reveals a tier of  attic windows, all decked out as ‘Kent’-style picture frames. The interior was designed by the same Edward Lovett Pearce, pupil of Vanbrugh, who designed the Irish Houses of Parliament where John Houghton was to work on the carved elements of chimneypieces, etc.

Castletown House, the Green Drawing-room, internal doorcase

Irish School after Van Dyck, Thomas Wentworth 1st Earl of Strafford, & his secretary, Sir Philip Mainwaring, in Palladian frame, second quarter of the 18th century, The Green Drawing-Room, Castletown House, Dublin. Photo: Steve Shriver, with thanks

Internal architectural features of Castletown, such as the doorcases, are in full Kentian fig (although the chimneypieces were updated later in the century, just as the stucco decoration is Rococo and other bits are NeoClassical); and there are frames, such as the one above, which – although here the finish is bizarrely plastic-like and textureless – have a Palladian grandeur.

Irish School after Van Dyck, Palladian frame, detail of crest

There are added embroideries to the style, however, which seem characteristic of the 18th century in Ireland: idiosyncratic elements and ornaments which differ from the English interpretation.  In the frame of the Van Dyck copy, for instance, the stepped top edge in the centre of the pediment, the scrolled modillion supporting it, and the base of the vase above create a sort of collision of architectural bits and bobs which suggest that a pilaster ought to be running down the centre of the painting. This effect is heightened by the swagged vase in the open swan’s neck pediment; probably the most cluttered open pediment ever conceived.

Irish School, 18th century, Thomas Moore of Barne (m.1777, d.1780), o/c, 77 x 64 cm., Adams Country House Collections, 15 October 2019, Lot 406

Newbridge House, Co. Dublin

There are, of course, many more plain, run-of-the-mill versions of the Palladian frame, such as that on the portrait of Thomas Moore, above. Newbridge House, designed by James Gibbs and built in the late 1740s-early 1750s, has very minimalist Palladian doorcases, and contains groups of portraits in equally restrained sanded ‘Kent’ frames with paterae; some have outset corners. All four portraits in gilt frames in the top tier (above) are of this kind, and there are others in the rest of the room. Overall, however, the Irish frames and chimneypieces which stand out (and are far from uncommon) are those which seem determined to pack in several layers of Palladian-ness, to accrete ornament upon ornament, or to apply a sort of Mannerist slant to the style.

Allan Ramsay (1713-84), Thomas, 2nd Baron Mansel of Margam, with his half-brothers and -sister, 1742, o/c, 124.5 x 100.3 cm.,Tate

As a comparison, this English ‘Kent’ frame on Ramsay’s group portrait of 1742 is a very grand luxe version of the style; yet – apart from the leafy flourish at the crest, centred on a tête espagnolette, the clasp and mask at the base and two leaves at the sides – all the decoration is confined within the typically geometric structure of a Palladian frame with outset corners, lateral brackets and foliate drops. It looks rich but not over-elaborated.

Framing elements in the Palladian interior

Palladian architectural frame in the Entrance Hall of Newman House, 86 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Photo: Aidan O’Boyle, with thanks

On the other hand, this architectural frame in Newman House (1760s) is in a late Palladian style which puts a Mannerist spin on the solid classicism of the original. Like Tabary’s altar screen in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, this nests one frame within another, and then another. Elements within the various layers reflect and then oppose each other, causing a tension which is increased by the running together of the layers at the base, where the voluted brackets, festoons of flowers and scallop shell seem to move between one level and the next.

John Booker the elder (attrib.; fl. 1715-d.1750, Dublin), Palladian looking glass, c.1740, 190 x 110 cm., Hawker Antiques, Pimlico, London

Irish Palladian looking-glasses also tend to break through the more restrained forms of the English versions. This one (attributed to John Booker the elder) floats the basic ‘Kent’ form forward of a raised pediment with a deep Mannerist frieze and swagged drapery, held in trompe l’oeil florets and a shell which mirrors the one in the open pediment above it. The apron and lateral volutes at the base seem to be a continuation of the frieze, behind the main frame, and are carved with a rather unintegrated collection of motifs.

John Booker the elder (fl. 1715-d.1750, Dublin), Palladian looking-glass, one of a pair, purchased in 1743 for the pre-1786 Gormanston Castle

Another example of John Booker’s work, this one documented in an invoice of 29 October 1743 [26], shows an extraordinary elaboration of detail upon detail. The frieze has a carved gesso diapering with relief paterae, and the raised panel at the top supports a complex festoon of flowers on a swag of ribbon, all on a diapered ground. There is further enriched diapering in the pediment, and a rather wonky vase filled with a bouquet of sunflowers balances the wicker basket of flowers in the apron. Palmettes cover the ends of the apron, sunflowers fill the volutes, and every other inch of flat space is decorated with shallow relief foliation. The overmantel glass which was part of the same order must have been even more encrusted with ornament.

Chimneypiece by William Colles with stucco overmantel of military trophy, hall of Castle Morres, Kilkenny, demolished early 1930s-78. Photo: from Timothy Ferres’s Lord Belmont in Ireland site

William Colles, chimney piece from Castle Morres, 1751, local Irish marble, 72 x 95 ins overall (182.9 x 241.3 cm.), Jamb

 Other versions, or extraversions, of Palladianism filled the interiors on Castle Morres in Kilkenny, very sadly demolished in stages during the 20th century. The house, another vast and impressive block in the style of Castletown House, was designed by Francis Bindon, portraitist of Swift, in his architect’s hat, and was built by William Colles, a local contractor and marble mason [27]. It was completed in 1751.

Palladian overmantel looking-glass from Castle Morres, 1750s, painted pine, 75 x 75 ins, O’Sullivan Antiques

In the painted overmantel glass immediately above, there is another example of nested Palladian frames, with the inner outset structure mimicking a picture frame, with pendant lateral drops, volutes at the base, and a foliate crest, like a small version of the one on the Allan Ramsay frame. The outer frame is more substantial, with Corinthian columns carved in the round and set against matching pilasters, and an open swan’s neck pediment, which presumably once held a vase.

Thomas Hope, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, 1807, Plate XXVII

William Colles, chimney piece from Castle Morres, 1751

If William Colles supplied all the chimneypieces for the state rooms, it is interesting to speculate on the style of fireplace which would have supported this painted looking-glass. The chimneypiece in the hall seems to be very much ahead of its time, moving into the goût grec heaviness of Thomas Hope’s early 19th century NeoClassicism. The overmantel structure around and above it (seen in the black-&-white photo) is very bizarre; presumably it was designed by Bindon. The pediment lacks any supportive pilasters or columns, and is unintegrated with both the rest of the interior and with the chimneypiece.

The Provost’s House, Dublin

James Malton (1761-1803), View of the Provost’s House & Trinity College, Dublin, 1796, w’col., 21 x 30 ins (53.5 x 76 cm.), Sotheby’s, Fine Art Society Sale, 5 February 2019, Lot 30

The Provost’s House, Trinity College, Dublin (home of Bindon’s portrait of Bishop Boulter, with its frame by John Houghton), is another striking Palladian building – quite latish, dating from the 1760s. For a building of such importance, the architect is uncertain: John Smyth (fl. 1750s-d.1775) was paid £22.15s for a plan of it, and a much larger payment was made to a ‘Mr Keen’ (possibly Henry Keene) [28].  The craftsmen involved in the decoration of the interior are known, however: the carved architectural elements are by Richard Cranfield (fl.1758-98) and James Robinson: between 1759 and 1764, the latter were paid nearly £2,000 for their work [29]. The stunning plasterwork is by Patrick and John Wall.

Richard Cranfield (fl.1758-98) & James Robinson, painted wooden chimneypiece & overmantel, Patrick & John Wall (stuccowork), dining-room, c. 1760, the Provost’s House, Trinity College, Dublin. Photo by Norah Quinton, with thanks; courtesy of the Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast

The carved and painted wooden chimneypiece and shouldered overmantel are in a much purer version of the Palladian than the chimney by Francis Bindon for Castle Morres, or than some of the picture frames above. Rather than egg-&-dart (used in a relatively small size for the flanking wall panels), the overmantel employs an unusual moulding of bellflower-&-dart, with a foliate clasp at the crest, and a Vitruvian scroll running along the mantel. It serves as an outer frame for whatever framed painting might be placed inside it, and is bound to the rest of the interior by the echoing bellflower-&-dart in the cornice above it. The plasterwork is married to the woodwork, the garland of oak leaves slung between the bottom of the frame and the Vitruvian scroll echoing the bound and centred oak leaves in the cornice.

The chimneypiece is centred on a trophy with the attributes of Apollo: a sunburst, bow and arrows, pipes and a lyre behind the god’s face; and it has festoons and drops of fruit around satyr-head modillions.

Cranfield & Robinson, painted wooden architectural frame, dining-room, c. 1760, the Provost’s House. Photo by Norah Quinton, courtesy of the Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast

On the opposite wall another framed and shouldered panel reflects that of the overmantel; it contains a set of the trompe l’oeil knotted and tasselled cords found on the three Palladian trophy frames carved by John Houghton. Two further arrangements of carved cords elsewhere in the room appear to support a pair of giltwood candelabra, also by Cranfield and Robinson.

Richard Cranfield (fl.1758-98) & James Robinson (woodcarving), Patrick & John Wall (stuccowork), ceiling of the saloon, 1760s, the Provost’s House; & details of ornament. Photo by Norah Quinton, courtesy of the Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast

The saloon of the Provost’s House occupies the whole frontage and two storeys; a magnificent piano nobile behind the Venetian window and four flanking windows of the façade. The carved wood and stucco decorations display the architectural mouldings which generally characterize Palladian interiors, furniture and frames (including a bold fret or interlace motif), but these are combined – to a much greater extent than in the dining-room – with a dynamic frieze of Baroque leaves, and with lighter crests and festoons of similar leaves. Their dancing, scrolling, undulating rhythms, contrasted with the severe geometry of the wooden mouldings, have occasionally caused them to be described as Rococo [30]; however, they do not look towards contemporary rocaille ornament, but back to the theatrical choreography of acanthus leaves in the 17th century.

Cranfield & Robinson, painted wooden chimneypiece & overmantel, the saloon, c. 1760, the Provost’s House. Photo by Norah Quinton, courtesy of the Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast

The two chimneypieces in the saloon, which flank a Palladian doorcase with columns, pilasters and a pediment, show very clearly how the portable frame on a painting had begun to merge with the architectural frames of wall panels, windows and doors; so that the framed picture was doubly framed by carved and stuccoed elements, and further framed by the room as a whole. Obviously, the paintings and frames which now occupy these particular overmantel panels are not those for which it was designed; possibly the two overmantels might originally have displayed portraits of the king and the man for whom the house was built – George III and Francis Andrews.

Cranfield & Robinson, painted wooden chimneypiece & overmantel, montaged with portrait – Provost Francis Andrews (for whom the Provost’s House was built) – in rectilinear Palladian frame

The arrangement as it was originally conceived will thus have to be imagined as involving a Palladian picture frame at the first level, around the painting – or perhaps even looking-glass – but, when every element was in place, this would have been a striking example of the first interior style in Britain and Ireland in which every feature combined into one coherent whole. This is also true of Rococo interiors on the Continent.


This article will be continued in An introduction to Irish frames – Part 2: from Baroque to modern

With grateful thanks to Aidan O’Boyle, for kickstarting this article, introducing James Adam & Sons Ltd, and supplying photos; to Dr Patrick Prendergast, the Provost & President of Trinity College, Dublin, for being so helpful and generous with the interior of his house; to Norah Quinton, for taking such a lot of great photos inside the Provost’s House; and to Steve Shriver, for so kindly sharing his photos.

The website of Robert O’Byrne, The Irish Aesthete, has also been a great help; apologies for plundering it in what must seem the traditional British manner (but in this case may be with luck be mitigated by the Welsh elements of the plunderer).


[1] The Westminster Retable, Westminster Abbey; the Thornham Parva altarpiece and Despenser Retable in East Anglia, and the Boughton Monchelsea altarpiece in Kent.

[2] Dr Raghnall Ó Floinn, National Museum of Ireland, ‘The Shrine of the Stowe Missal’, Irish script on screen

[3] Ibid.

[4] See also the Domhnach Airgid or ‘Silver Church’, with elements from the 8th century remade in the 14th, with an equally decorative outer border, inner architectural framework with figures in niches, and Crucifixion

[5] See ‘Parish churches, cathedrals’, Mediaeval Ireland: an encyclopaedia, ed. Sean Duffy, 2005, p.363

[6] The Knight of Glin & James Peil, Irish furniture: woodwork & carving in Ireland from the earliest times to the Act of Union, 2007, Yale University Press

[7] Tessa Murdoch, Huguenot artists, designers and craftsmen in Great Britain and Ireland. 1680-1760, Ph D. thesis, University of London, p.127

[8] See entry for James Tabary on Library Ireland

[9] Irish furniture…, op. cit., p.33

[10] Tessa Murdoch, op. cit., p.128

[11] Irish furniture…, op. cit., p.35

[12] Ibid.; see note 6; pp. 271-95.  Framemakers can be found in both sections, rather Irishly

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid. His will is dated 1729

[15] Ibid., p. 293

[16] Ibid. A John Houghton junior was recorded in the same street in the 1750s. The Knight suggests (p.37) that James Tabary might have carved the St Michan’s musical trophy as well as that in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, in which case it might have been ‘re-used from an earlier scheme’. It is hard to judge purely from photos of the two panels, but the Hospital trophy looks both more arranged but also flatter, whilst the St Michan’s trophy seems denser, more sculptural and more complex.

[17] Ibid.; pp. 63

[18] Ibid.; pp. 70-71: Houghton was apparently paid £333.8s.3d for carving in the Houses of Parliament, ‘a huge sum at that date’

[19] Ibid. This was the Dublin Society of Improvement of Husbandry, Agriculture and other Useful Arts, which was founded in 1731 and became the Royal Dublin Society… in 1749: see John Shovlin, ‘The Society of Brittany’, in The rise of economic societies in the 18th century: Patriotic reform in Europe and North America, ed. Koen Stapelbroeke & Jani Marjanen, 2012, p.78-79. It awarded prizes for drawing, sculpture, manufacturing on Irish soil things which had usually to be imported (including salt and paper); it supported recycling, rewarded inventions, and helped the poor.  Houghton’s 1741 prize was £15 for the best piece of sculpture; ‘and in 1742, £20 for… St Paul preaching at Athens, after Raphael’s cartoon… now at Curraghmore, Co. Waterford.

[20] Van Beaver’s name is at the top, as the creator; the names of master and wardens of the guild are added below

[21] The shield is divided as if from the point of view of a hypothetical bearer, rather than the orientation of the person looking at it

[22] Swift’s ‘Verses on the sudden drying-up of St Patrick’s well near Trinity College, Dublin’, 1726, mention the myth that the saint banished all snakes from Ireland, putting into his mouth this address to his country: ‘By faith and prayer, this crosier in my hand,/ I drove the venom’d serpent from thy land:/ the shepherd in his bower might sleep or sing,/ nor dread the adder’s tooth, nor scorpion’s sting.’ The snake on the frame symbolically connects Swift with St Patrick, of whose cathedral in Dublin he was made Dean in 1713

[23] Irish furniture…, op. cit., p.75

[24] Ibid.; pp.75-76

[25] John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits (National Portrait Gallery, London), 1977

[26] Irish furniture…, op. cit., p.84-85. The pair of pier-glasses and an overmantel glass cost together £21.10s

[27] See the informative entry for the black marble chimneypiece by William Colles in the collection of the antique dealers Jamb, Pimlico, London

[28] See Christine Casey, The buildings of Ireland: Dublin, Yale, 2005, p. 395; see also the piece on the Provost’s House on the archiseek website. The exterior derives from the same villa by Palladio as Burlington’s house for General Wade in Burlington Street, built in 1723 and demolished in 1923

[29] Irish furniture…, op. cit., p.132

[30] There are mid-18th century British Palladian interiors where Rococo ornament has indeed seeped in and entwined itself around Kentian geometry: for example, in the drawing-room of Farnborough Hall