Marriage of art and technology as gallery puts conservation of painting online


THE NATIONAL Gallery of Ireland has put its ongoing conservation of the iconic painting The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoifeonline.

While the painting, described as one of the most important historic works in the gallery’s collection, is being conserved, visitors to the gallery’s website will be able to see into previously restricted areas, accessing updates of the work in progress through pictures and videos.

There is also a document archive and descriptions of the significance of the painting.

The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoifeis the work of Cork-born artist Daniel Maclise (1806-1870) and is, in the words of the gallery’s director, Raymond Keaveney, “the size of a small lawn”.

The online resource includes a timeline recording the various stages of the project since autumn 2010, when conservation was initiated.

Visitors to the site will be able to follow the progress of the conservation over the next 12 months, going behind the scenes and into rooms in the gallery that are normally not accessible to the public.

The resource gives a detailed visual account of the challenges presented by the scale of the painting, which measures 317cm by 515cm, including descriptions of the technical surveys and analyses of materials carried out by the conservation scientists.

The site provides historical and art historical information on the painting, as well as details about Maclise’s life and times.

A number of short videos on the project, produced by creative agency Idea, are also available, giving an insight into the history of the painting and the conservation challenges it presents.

Simone Mancini, head of conservation at the National Gallery, said it was not feasible to carry out conservation and analysis of the painting in public, so the gallery’s Centre for the Study of Irish Art and digital media team collaborated with the curatorial team and the conservation department to create the “dedicated online resource”.

Mr Keaveney thanked the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Art Conservation Programme for funding the conservation of the painting.

“The detailed analysis and research being carried out on the painting by the gallery’s conservation team is now accessible through a dedicated section on the gallery’s website,” he said.

“It affords an exciting opportunity for everybody to follow the work in progress on this important Irish painting and to obtain an insight into the workings of the gallery’s conservation department and its contribution to the management and care of the collection.”

Mr Keaveney added that a conservation project on this scale “not only works to preserve a masterpiece, but also adds to our understanding of the artist’s working method and the materials and techniques employed”.

Idea managing director Ciarán Flanagan said: “The series of videos and interviews produced for the Maclise online resource has grown into a fascinating documentary about the importance of conservation, the invaluable work of the professionals and conservation experts in the National Gallery of Ireland, and the incredible new discoveries that are being made about the artist’s techniques and the development of conservation techniques.”

Strongbow and Aoife: The Norman knight and the maiden

THE MARRIAGE of Strongbow and Aoifedepicts a pivotal moment in Irish history. In the late 1160s, Dermot MacMurrough, king of Leinster, was struggling to retain his throne and, after being expelled from Ireland, he sought assistance from the Norman leader, Richard de Clare, the Earl of Pembroke, known as Strongbow. He promised Strongbow his daughter Aoife in marriage. Strongbow landed in

Ireland on August 23rd, 1170, and attacked Waterford with a force of some 200 knights and 1,000 troops. Aoife and Strongbow were married at Christ Church Cathedral soon after Waterford was seized and so the Normans came to be a force in Ireland.