Saving a National Treasure

Press Release: 20 September 2011

Minister for Arts launches National Gallery’s online resource on the Maclise Conservation Project. New digital documentation of conservation project funded by Bank of America Merrill Lynch


Mr Jimmy Deenihan, T.D., Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, today (Tuesday 20 September) launched the National Gallery’s online resource on the Maclise Conservation Project, which documents the ongoing conservation treatments of one of the most important historic Irish paintings in the collection, The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife by Cork-born artist, Daniel Maclise (1806-1870).

Commenting on the launch, Minister Deenihan said “I am delighted to launch this online resource, a project which will enable people to peer through the conservation window and view the extensive work being carried out on one of Ireland’s best known history paintings. A resource such as this gives us all a unique chance to view the exciting and challenging work undertaken by an immensely skilled conservation team on such a vast canvas. I have no doubt that this project will be enjoyed by a wide audience and I would like to thank Bank of America Merrill Lynch for their continuing support of the arts in Ireland.”

The new online resource dedicated to the Maclise Conservation Project is available to view on the Gallery’s recently redeveloped website. It gives a detailed visual account of the challenges presented by the scale of the painting (317 x 515 cm), including descriptions of the technical surveys and analyses of materials carried out by the conservation scientists.

Simone Mancini, Head of Conservation in the National Gallery of Ireland, says: “Given the scale of the painting, its history and execution, the project presented many exciting conservation challenges. For that reason it was not feasible to carry out conservation and analysis on the painting in public, and so the Centre for the Study of Irish Art and the Gallery’s Digital Media Team collaborated with the Curatorial Team and the Conservation Department to create a dedicated online resource where visitors will have the opportunity to learn more about the background to the project and to follow online the ongoing conservation of the painting as it progresses.”

A project timeline records all the various stages of the conservation treatment since autumn 2010 when the project was initiated, and will allow the public to follow progress online over the next twelve months. The site provides additional historical and art historical information on the painting, as well as details about Daniel Maclise’s life and times.

Raymond Keaveney, Director of the National Gallery of Ireland, says: “With funding from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Art Conservation Project, the treatment of the Maclise painting began in autumn 2010 with the aim of preserving the cultural value of this significant work for future generations. 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. 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. 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.”

The Maclise Conservation Project is being carried out with the generous support of Bank of America Merrill Lynch as part of their Global Art Conservation Programme. Peter Keegan, Country Executive Ireland, Bank of America Merrill Lynch says: “We are privileged to have supported the National Gallery of Ireland in conserving this iconic and instantly recognisable piece of Irish history, The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife. Funding from the Bank of America Art Conservation Project will ensure that this vital artistic treasure is conserved to the highest standards and enjoyed by the public for many years to come. It is encouraging to know that the process is being recorded, so that scholars from around the world can learn about the techniques of Maclise as well as the methods employed by the conservation team at the National Gallery. As a company in more than 100 countries, we are proud to support the preservation of treasures from many nations, to highlight beauty, traditions and heritage, as well as the need for art conservation.”

It is envisaged that conservation on the Maclise painting will take another 12 months to complete. All stages of the project are being filmed and documented as the work progresses and updates will be available to view online on a regular basis.

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 presented. Ciarán Flanagan, Managing Director, IDEA says: “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.”