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Work of the Week | 30 January 2023

CAG.0445 Richard Barter, Bust of Rev. Francis Mahony, ‘Fr. Prout’, 1890, marble, 81 x 66 x 30 cm.


Bust of Rev. Francis Mahony, ‘Fr. Prout’ (1890) by Richard Barter is an affectionate portrait in marble of the celebrated Irish cleric, journalist, poet, and humourist.

Cork-born Francis Sylvester Mahony (1804-1866) was a former teacher of rhetoric at Clongowes Wood College who wrote for Fraser’s Magazine under the pen name ‘Father Prout’. The real Fr Daniel Prout (1757-1830), whom Mahony knew, had been appointed by Bishop Francis Moylan as parish priest of Ballynalty and Ardnageehy (Watergrasshill) in 1806.

Mahony’s Reliques of Father Prout (1836) – illustrated by his friend Daniel Maclise (1806-1870) – were accompanied by the claim that the writings were found in a chest after Prout’s death. They were, however, entirely the witty invention of the ‘caustic, irascible’ Mahony and on publication proved to be hugely popular.

Did you know: From the 1840s through to his death in 1866, Mahony was variously Rome correspondent for the Daily News and Paris correspondent for the Globe. Today he is perhaps best known as the writer of “The Bells of Shandon”.

Richard Barter (1824-1896), who hailed from Macroom, County Cork, was a sculptor of some note. Having trained at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) school, he would go on to exhibit work at the Great Exhibition (1851) in London’s Crystal Palace, as well as with the Royal Hibernian Academy, Irish Art Union, and Royal Academy. He counted fellow sculptor John Henry Foley and politician Daniel O’Connell among his friends.

This portrait bust is currently on display in our Sculpture Galleries as part of RECASTING CANOVA. A plaster version, presented in 1905, is also in the Collection.

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. You can listen back to this week’s chat here:


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