Ireland is renowned for the quality of its light: changeable and dramatic, the weather blows over the island from west to east rapidly. It sheds much of its Atlantic force by the time it reaches Dublin, yet even still it's a spectacle. With brightness and cloud, the sky flickers like a zoetrope, and you can sit wrapt by a window for hours. The old adage "if you don't like the weather just wait five minutes" is nowhere truer than here.
|A rooftop view south, towards the Wicklow Mountains.|
The manmade lights in Dublin can be just as dramatic.
|Lower Leeson Street, late afternoon.|
Dublin's South Side, where I live, is also known as Georgian Dublin. The brick facades in my neighborhood create long flat streetscapes, simple blocks of a measurable width that may end in slightly varied heights all along the row, like steps against the cloudy bright sky. Paned windows punctuate the brick with rhythmic regularity. Doors are brightly painted, and fan windows above them glimpse the graceful chandeliers in the Entry Hall. There is a reverence for tradition even today, and twinkling behind those petals of glass are mostly classic chandeliers, brass and glass with sparkling electric candles. It is a bright, warm sight, this porch light from within.
|The Olympia Theatre, Dublin. |
|National Concert Hall, Dublin.|
|Door knocker and pendant in Dublin's Masonic Lodge.|
The house is a classic Palladian style manse, built in 1722 for a speaker of the Irish House of Commons. The Italian influence is charmingly evident in the rich umber color behind the colonnades, an earthy hue that brings striking warmth to the stone facade.
|Castletown House, Co. Kildare.|
|Six Sided Hall Lantern.|
You enter the tour not from the grand ascent of stairs central to the facade, overlooking an incredible expanse of green lawn and parkland beyond, but by the side hall, the servants axis running the width of the house. The hall houses a pair of exquisite reclining marble statues of the owners of the home, William Connolly and his lady Katherine Conyngham. Six sided lanterns hang from plaster florets in the barrel ceiling. Openwork banding and a scalloped crown frame the lanterns. The shadows from the metalwork pattern an otherwise plain barrel and guide the eye down its length.
The dim servants hall lets you out into the foyer and you will draw a deep breath. The ceilings are high above checkerboard marble floors and windows food the space with clean light. The main staircase winds up from an adjacent room.
The original entry chandelier is no longer in place - the furnishings were sold off when the estate fell into disrepair, and were only later reassembled from auction by a devotee of the place - but one can imagine how it offset the incredible plasterwork the decorates the staircase, pulling the relief higher with dramatic shadow (more on that in another post.)
|Murano Chandelier in the Long Gallery.|
Perhaps the grandest space in Castletown House is the Long Gallery, an upper floor entertaining room and repository of a collection of classical artwork. A rich blue palette creates the backdrop for a riot of gold painted plasterwork and Pompeian decoration, fashionable at the time. A collection of marble busts line the walls, larger than life and ghostly in tone. Painted scenes edge the ceiling, including a demilune above the entrance depicting a scene of love.
Up amidst the pantheon near the ceiling are three Murano glass chandeliers. They are massive, frilled things, clear glass with blue and red detailing. The diameter of each must be near four feet. I could not help think of the logistics of getting this delicate trio over to Ireland from Italy in the late 18th century. It turns out they were shipped in pieces and artisans assembled the glass parts on site. Wonderfully detailed photos of the room exist, showing it fully furnished by the later lady of the house, Louisa Connolly.
A last tidbit I'll leave you with is the Casino Marino. This tiny treasure box is considered the finest example of neoclassical architecture in Europe, and is an absolute delight to tour. The guides are consummate scholars of their places, and completely enthusiastic about the architecture and history of them. I didn't find any exceptional hanging lights here, but rather was charmed by the windows. You'll see mysterious black panes in spots around the small facade. These false windows were necessary to uphold the strict symmetry demanded for William Chambers's Georgian folly. These lights are camouflaged from the inside, as if to say you never can trust an Irish sky.
Explore Dublin:Castletown House
The weather. (It's raining.)
The weather. (It's raining.)