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WORK OF THE WEEK | 19 August 2019

CAG.1348 John O’Keeffe (attributed), Nano Nagle and Pupils, 19th century, oil on canvas, 127 x 101 cm. Purchased, with assistance from the Friends of the Crawford Art Gallery and the Presentation Community, 1990.

It’s Heritage Week and, as this year’s theme is Pastimes | Past Times, let’s journey back in time for our WORK OF THE WEEK!

Nano Nagle and Pupils is a charming group portrait featuring three young girls – all activity and application as they receive instruction – gathered around the central figure of Honora ‘Nano’ Nagle (1718-1784). This founder of the Presentation Sisters was a pioneer of Catholic education when, under the Penal laws, it was illegal to do so in Ireland. A woman of both means and courage, however, she determinedly set about improving the lot of those less well off than herself. Her ethos interwove spiritual and temporal education and, known for her nocturnal ministries, she would gain the nickname of ‘The Lady with the Lantern’.

Glimpsed outside the window (in the painting’s background) is the 14th-century bell tower of Red Abbey – a rare connection to Cork’s medieval heritage – suggesting the location for this scene is that of the South Presentation convent, Douglas Street. This premises were owned by the Nagle family, but has been a place of education and faith for centuries. Today, the site includes one of Cork’s newest heritage experiences, Nano Nagle Place. It is also the final resting place of the Venerable Nano Nagle herself.

Nano Nagle and Pupils is featured in SEEN, NOT HEARD until 28 October 2019. Attributed to John O’Keeffe (c.1797-1838), it is likely derived from an earlier (unknown) work, engraved c.1809 by Charles Turner.

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