Saving a National Treasure

Detail from Daniel Maclise, 'The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife'

The  Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife by Daniel Maclise (1806-1870) is one of Ireland’s best known history paintings. Executed in 1854, when Maclise was at the height of his powers, the work depicts the marriage of princess Aoife, the daughter of Dermot MacMurrough, to the Norman leader Strongbow, following the capture of Waterford.Presented to the Gallery in 1879, today it is one of the most popular and celebrated works in the collection.

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.

Conservation on the painting commenced in October 2010 with the aim of preserving the cultural value of this significant work for future generations. Over the course of the project, this vast painting will undergo full-scale analysis and conservation. This offers an excellent opportunity for an in-depth examination of the painting and the materials and techniques used by Maclise. The project presents many exciting conservation challenges on an exceptional scale given the history, execution and unusual size of the painting (315 x 513 cm).

The Conservation Department has collaborated with the Centre for the Study of Irish Art and the Gallery’s digital media team to create this online resource where visitors will have the opportunity to learn more about the history and on-going conservation of the painting.


Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Bank of America Merrill Lynch: Supporting the Arts

In 2010 Bank of America Merrill Lynch launched a major initiative to help conserve important works of art and cultural treasures. As part of this international Conservation Programme, The Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Inc. has provided the National Gallery of Ireland with a grant to restore The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife.

Detail from Frontispiece to 'A Memoir of Daniel Maclise, RA' by W Justin O'Driscoll, MRIA, London, Longmans, Green and Co, 1871

Maclise and the National Gallery of Ireland

From its inception, the National Gallery of Ireland recognised the importance of Irish art, not least that of Daniel Maclise. Over the years many of his oil paintings, works on paper, and book illustrations have been added to the national collection. Read more about the artist's connection with the Gallery.