- God the Father, painted on wood, attributed to Nicolas Froment, probably from the second half of the 15th Century. A unique expression in religious art in the Middle Ages

 

The Hunt Museum,
Limerick

 

     The Hunt Museum in Limerick opened its doors in 1997, inside the newly restored Customs House. The museum is rich in terms of exhibits and also has a beautiful story to tell.
     The lucky visitor to the Hunt Museum discovers a very well documented history of art, exhibits going back to Neolithic times. Irish art and antiquities are particularly present but one might say that the Hunt Museum provides almost everything that can form and educate a taste for art and human history, awakening an interest in beauty and research. From Neolithic arrow heads (30 000 years before Jesus Christ) through the artistically developed Celtic crosses and the polychrome sculptures of the Middle ages to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Bronze Horse and the Crucifix that Mary Queen of Scots held as she went her execution. In the Hunt Museum the men and women of the 21st Century have a chance to discover what beauty and history are.
   This was the very intention of the museums founders John & Gertrude Hunt, when, with the ongoing help of their children they opened this place that shows their own particular love for knowledge and for beauty.


Cashel Bell, 9th Century

    In terms of Irish art these bells are particularly worth noticing. They appear in the 5th Century, probably the first in the history of Christianity, their style continuing until a high point in the 8th and 9th centuries. They are squared in form, with a loop-handle.
     Bells of this type played an important role in the Irish and Brittany mission of the period. This was particularly so on continental Brittany where some of the “Brittany Saints” arrived from what is now Wales, and drew the attention of the Armorican tribesmen by ringing bells – a sound unknown before. (see the Legend of Saint Maudez in Dualt).

     The Hunt Museum allows us to run through the whole of Irish art history, from prehistoric bronze age axes to the wooden pilgrim crosses of the 19th Century. Between the two, prepare yourself for the discovery of magnificent pyxis (silver boxes for carrying holy communion to the sick), luxury furnishings form the 17th and 18th Centuries, ceramic work as well as delicate Delft-inspired Dublin porcelain. The great pictorial artists of the 19th and 20th Centuries are there too!


Kilmallock, view by John George Mulvany, circa 1820-30

     Among these artists one finds work from John George Mulvany (1766 - 1838), whose charming oil painting “A View of Kilmallock” can be seen, in a typical style of ruins set out in a pastoral foreground. Mulvany gives a romantic lilt to the classic ruins and countryside style of Frenchman Claude Lorrain (1600 - 1680). The painting is almost a history of Irish architectural styles: the narrow tower of the Collegial church is pre-Norman, the castle of King John is Norman, followed by the Dominican convent dating from the 13th and 14th Centuries.

 


Bretonne
Roderic O'Connor 1896-97

     Worthy of note is Roderic O'Connor (1860-1940). This Irishman from Pont Aven was associated with the ‘synthesist’ school of Gaugin and Emile Bernard. The Hunt Museum has one large painting of his, in a style rather more sedate and balanced than Gaugin’s “ Irish stripes from Pont Aven” (see " Gauguin et l'aventure de Pont Aven ").
O’Connor’s "Une Bretonne " was painted in the charming little village of Rochefort en Terre (Morbihan, Brittany) to where the artist had fled from the intrusiveness of life in Pont Aven. (see Pont Aven et Nizon ), in search of peace from the constant flow of painters and tourists.

 


Croix d'Antrim 1er moitié 9e siécle

    Among the Hunt Museum’s Irish treasures, do not miss the “Antrim Cross” , mentioned in all books on Celtic art. The cross (early 9th Century) is small, only six inches high and six inches broad, and part of its decoration is now missing (probably enamel covered plates in the cross’s middle branches). It remains one of the keys to Irish religious art in the Upper Middle Ages, perhaps because of its very simplicity, and also of Celtic art renewed and invigorated by the the particular Christian culture of the Celtic west. (see " Qui étaient les Celtes " ). The cross was found in County Antrim, the reason for its current name, and objects form this period are rare because of the Viking pillages then common: some such crosses have been found as tomb decorations in Norway. On the enamelled pyramidal end-forms a double decoration can be seen, both geometrical and animal.
     This Celtic art bringing together traditional patterns and Christian hope finds its high point of expression in the Irish Gospels (Book of Kells etc.)

     The museum’s ceramic collection is ample, allowing the discovery of a geographical and historical panorama going from Greece, Syria and China and Italy, to Spain and Saxony as well as England and Ireland.

     Finally, some other prestigious works at the Hunt Museum include :

 
- The Menu " Plat del Dia ", from the " Four Cats menu " (the famous restaurant where artists met in Barcelona). The drawing is from the early work of Pablo Picasso.
 
Angel with trumpet, Stained glass, England circa 1300
 
- The Crucifix-Reliquary, gold and enamelled, said to have belonged to Mary Stewart, probably from the late 16th Century. On the rear side, the instrument of the passion surround the heart of Jesus, the inscription on the sides reads “Happy he who suffereth and he for whom he suffereth”.
     
 
 
 

- Bronze Horse Rearing Up, bronze statuette made from drawings by Leonardo da Vinci for the Battle of Anghiari, by H. Guiraut one of his students.

 

H Guiraut

 

Find out more :

- Le Hunt Museum
- Pont Aven et Nizon, les peintres et la Littérature ; l’école synthétiste
- Qui sont les Celtes ?
- La Fuite en Egypte, Hunt Museum
- Léonard de Vinci, au Metropolitan Museum
- Le Musée Guimet, Arts d’Asie
- Claude Monet, les Nymphéas
- Le premier visage humain : La Dame de Brassempouy