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WORK OF THE WEEK | 17 March 2020

111-STG H Clarke Consecration of St Mel Bishop of Longford by St Patrick

CAG.111 Harry Clarke, The Consecration of St. Mel, Bishop of Longford, by St. Patrick, 1910, stained glass, 67.3 x 60.3 cm. © Crawford Art Gallery, Cork

We may be working from home, but we’re still bringing you our WORK OF THE WEEK!

To celebrate St Patrick’s Day, we have chosen one of the most beloved works of stained glass in the collection: Harry Clarke’s The Consecration of St. Mel, Bishop of Longford, by St. Patrick (1910).

This prize-winning stained-glass panel depicts St Patrick, one of Ireland’s three patron saints, with his nephew, St Mél of Ardagh (d. 488). Did you know that Mél (or Moel) was the son of Patrick’s sister, St Darerca, who has been described as the mother of many saints and patron of Valentia Island, County Kerry?

In the difficult times we are now living through, spare a thought for St Mél who has become a ‘patron saint’ of single people and the positives of self-isolation! In Clarke’s stained glass, however, St Mel is presented, head bowed, in the company of others and to one side of his more famous uncle. The artist depicts St Patrick as an elder, benign figure complete with bishop’s mitre (hat) and crosier (staff) to identify his authority.

Medieval metalwork and Romaneque stonework details in the background place this image firmly within Ireland’s “Celtic Revival” period; while another curious detail, a banner above Mel’s head, shows a winged and crowned Mary, mother of Jesus, in her role as Theotokos or Mater Dei (Mother of God).

Better known as Harry, Henry Patrick Clarke was born in Dublin on this day in 1889 – yes, St Patrick’s Day – to Brigid MacGonigal and Joshua Clarke. He would become one of Ireland’s most distinctive and internationally recognised artists.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh go léir!
Happy St Patrick’s Day to you all!

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