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Athendoros Laocoon and his Sons. Picture credit: Crawford Art Gallery.
Athendoros Laocoon and his Sons. Picture credit: Crawford Art Gallery.

New backdrop for Crawford Art Gallery's iconic Canova Casts

The Canova Casts, the iconic sculpture casts synonymous with the Crawford Art Gallery, are getting a dramatic new backdrop.

The refurbishment of the Sculpture Galleries that house them has been ongoing since the end of last year and is being supported by Pat McDonnell Paints. The work will be unveiled to the public on February 16.

“They are two beautiful rooms and they are very important for the gallery, so I am very excited about refreshing them,” director of Crawford, Mary McCarthy, said. “They are going to be very bold and people are going to be very surprised.” 

The changes include a contemporary colour scheme, revised display, and new visitor interpretation.

“The exciting changes to the gallery space, and the representation of the works, is in line with the current international revival of interest in sculpture casts,” Ms McCarthy said. “Cork is a significant part of that international story.”

On a recent visit to Cork, Mary Beard, BBC presenter and classicist, said: “I’m a great fan of cast collections anyway, but the link with the Canova makes it extra special”.

From pope to prince to the port of Cork, the Canova Casts have a rich and storied history. Born out of the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, they were a gift to the prince regent of the time who, in turn, gifted them to the people of Cork.

Some of Ireland’s most prominent artists, from Daniel Maclise to Seamus Murphy to Dorothy Cross, when they were students, learned by drawing the casts.

In recent years, the casts have benefited from essential conservation treatment supported by the Heritage Council.

“It is timely, at their bicentenary, to look upon the Canova Casts anew, to reconsider their vital history and legacy as a generative force in the arts, and to reveal the rich stories that surround the figures they depict and the people they have inspired,” curator of the exhibition, Dr Michael Waldron, said.