Irish Period Furniture

In the exhibition there is a magnificent early oak altar table, probably carved by James Tarbary in 1686 for the chapel of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. It contrasts with the simplicity of an oak chest of the Corporation or Guild of Feltmakers in Dublin, dated 1673.

Ireland is well-known for its distinctive styles of mahogany furniture made around the mid 18th Century. Diverse styles displayed in proximity are the simple Irish hunt table, which contrasts with the delicacy of the carved legs and trifid feet of the silver table. Nearby is a card table with frieze carved with scallop, scrolls and flowerets and with scrolled feet, which can be compared to a nearby heavily-carved architect’s table with large paw feet.

By the late 18th Century, when Irish furniture followed London fashions closely, cabinet-makers such as William Moore (who was apprenticed in London at the firm of Mayhew and Ince) nevertheless developed their own distinctive styles. Similarly, 19th-Century pieces made by cabinet-makers in Dublin, Limerick and Kilkenny show how they followed, in their way, the styles then fashionable. The intricate inlay of Killarney work from about the 1840s, and Belfast’s poker-work from the 1890s, show that some centres had developed for specific customer markets such as the tourist trade.

This gallery, which is a celebration of Irish furniture-making from the 17th Century, ends with superb satinwood pieces made by James Hicks, Dublin, in the late 19th or early 20th Century, and with chromed tubular furniture designed by architect Raymond McGrath in 1930 for the BBC headquarters in London. With it too are contemporary pieces made by some of Ireland’s leading furniture designers.

Also on display in this area is the Domville Dolls’ House, which was donated to the Museum in 1901 by the Misses M. and G. Domville of Loughlinstown, Co. Dublin. While the house itself dates to about 1851, the furniture was commissioned by the Museum in 1901 from the Cushendall Toy-Making Industry in Co. Antrim. This industry successfully produced the miniature furniture in the Sheraton, Hepplewhite, Chippendale and Adam styles. The miniature paintings in the house were commissioned from Mabel Hurse of Ranelagh, Dublin, as miniature copies of paintings in the National Gallery of Ireland.

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