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Work of the Week | 27 March 2023

CAG.0669 John Hogan, Hibernia and Brian Boroimhe, 1855, plaster, 167.5 x 83 x 96 cm. Presented, William Horatio Crawford.

This WORK OF THE WEEK marks the 165th anniversary of a celebrated Irish sculptor!

Hibernia and Brian Boroimhe (1855) by John Hogan, who died on 27 March 1858, is among the artist’s most political and imaginative late works.

The plaster sculpture depicts Hibernia, female personification of Ireland, with a young boy, Brian Boru (c.941-1014), who would become King of Munster and High King of Ireland. Gathered around them are potent symbols of kingship, heroism, and nationalism.

Brian, who holds a down-turned sword suggestive of pacifism, gains a foothold upon a resting Irish wolfhound, recalling the Cú Chulainn myth. Hibernia wears a ‘mural crown’ to indicate sovereignty and, by her side, holds a wreath of oak leaves (akin to a laurel wreath). Next to this, a shamrock-adorned crown lies upturned beside a harp (embellished with interlace motifs) and a scroll bearing the inscription: ‘Victoria [?] Brian Boroimhe Regis Hibernia A.D. MXIV’ (Victory of Brian Boru King of Ireland 1014 A.D.).

In essence, Hogan’s sculptural composition meditates on legitimate government in the aftermath of An Gorta Mór (Great Irish Famine) and suggests the hope embodied by an emerging generation.

John Hogan (1800-1858) hailed from Tallow, County Waterford and began his career as an apprentice to architect Sir Thomas Deane (1792-1871). Encouraged to pursue training in sculpture at the Cork School of Art, he subsequently moved to Rome in 1824, living and working in the ‘Eternal City’ until 1848 when he relocated to Dublin. His health declined after suffering a stroke in 1855, the year he made Hibernia and Brian Boroimhe.

Hibernia and Brian Boroimhe (1855) by John Hogan is displayed in our Sculpture Galleries.

The Arts House: Conor Tallon chats with curator Michael Waldron about a work from the Collection every Sunday morning on Cork’s 96FM and C103 Cork.

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