Art Historical References

Detail from Daniel Maclise, 'The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife', 1854
Jacques-Louis David, 'The Funeral of Patroclus', 1778

Maclise references a number of famous artworks in this painting. In 1830, on a visit to Paris, he came into contact with the works of Théodore Gericault (1791-1824), Eugéne Delacroix (1798-1863) and Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) in the Louvre and at Versailles. These artists were to have a lasting influence on his work. The mass of dead and dying figures in the foreground of the painting may be a reference to Théodore Géricault’s painting Raft of the Medusa (1819) which depicts a group of shipwreck survivors and twisted corpses clinging to a raft. Maclise’s dramatic use of light and shade is reminiscent of Jacques-Louis David’s The Funeral of Patroclus (1778) (left).

Detail from Daniel Maclise, 'The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife', 1854
Detail from Daniel Maclise, 'The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife', 1854

Maclise includes some familiar Christian iconography in the scene. The series of burial scenes in the background are references to deposition and entombment scenes which are common in medieval and Renaissance art. They may be included here to evoke feelings of suffering and tragedy, and to tie this event in with other religious and historical narratives of grief and distress.
The mourning woman in the foreground, with her dead child lying before her, is depicted in the traditional orans gesture of grief. Similar figures can be found in paintings depicting the Massacre of the Innocents.