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.
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.
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!
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.
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 ").
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.
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 :
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- Le Hunt Museum