The greater part of the collection of European sculpture dates from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.
The collection contains many fine eighteenth-century copies after the antique, most notably marbles by Giovanni Battista Piamontini and Bartolomeo Cavaceppi. The influence of classical sculpture is reflected in four Florentine bronzes of Hercules after Giambologna and in a late eighteenth-century statue of Adonis by François-Marie Poncet. The highlight of the collection is Antonio Canova’s neo-classical marble Amorino, commissioned by a young Irish patron, David La Touche, in 1789.
The Shaw Fund enabled the acquisition of a baroque portrait by François Du Quesnoy, a mythological subject carved in sandstone by Ferdinand Dietz, a processional lime-wood figure of the prophet Elijah attributed to Juan Alonso Villabrille y Ron, and Eurydice rendered in marble by Lawrence MacDonald. Among the pieces dating from the nineteenth-century are bronzes by Auguste Rodin and Aimé Jules Dalou, both bequeathed by Sir Hugh Lane, a former Director of the Gallery.
The Gallery holds a large number of sculptures by Irish artists. Works include portrait busts by Patrick Cunningham, Thomas Kirk, Christopher Moore and Peter Turnerelli, who worked in Dublin and London, and also by Christopher Hewetson and John Hogan, who were based in Rome.
Nineteenth-century Irish sculpture is represented most notably in the work of John Foley, the most distinguished practitioner of his generation. Irish sculptures dating from the twentieth century range from plaster maquettes by Jerome Connor to portrait heads and allegorical subjects by Oliver Sheppard, Albert Power and Oisín Kelly.
A monumental bronze of William Dargan by Thomas Farrell erected in 1864 presides over the Gallery forecourt.