In October 2010 the National Gallery of Ireland embarked on an ambitious programme to conserve The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife by Daniel Maclise (1806-1870)- one of Ireland's best-known paintings. This book tells the story of this endeavor, which took three years and involved researchers across Europe working with the Gallery's Conservation Department. This project addressed and resolved a series of unique and monumental challenges presented by the painting, resulting in successfully preserving the cultural value of this significant work for future generations.
Executed in 1854, when Maclise was at the height of his powers, this vast painting depicts the marriage of Princess Aoife, the daughter of Dermot MacMurrough, to the Norman leader Strongbow, following the capture of Waterford. Historical subjects of this kind are relatively rare in Irish Art, and Cork-born Maclise's technical ability was exceptional. The painting is as much a grandiose record of the artist's modish fascination for antiquarian detail and drama as it is an account of a momentous historic event. It has been studied by scholars of numerous disciplines, from archaeologists and historians to botanists, but also appeals to a general audience who realise its artistic brilliance.
Presented to the Gallery in 1879, it has been on almost constant display since then. The conservation project detailed in these pages was unique in both scale and complexity, including detailed analysis as well as conservation. These studies provided new insights into the work's technical mastery, and we mark these with specially commissioned essays from Gallery conservators and curators.