Art Institute of Chicago, Ireland: Crossroads of Art and Design, 1690–1840:
A recently concluded exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago focused on Irish art:
Presenting over 300 objects drawn from public and private collections across North America—as well as the Art Institute’s own important collection of Irish decorative and fine arts—this exhibition is the first to explore the rich and complex art and culture of Ireland during the long 18th century. [More>]
Katharine Lochnan of Toronto, a Clan member and our Canada Editor, attended this exhibition. She discovered a portrait of a former County Clare man, Bishop Laurence Nihill SJ (1726-1795) who was then bishop of Kilfenora/Kilmacduagh during the Penal era.
Bishop Nihill’s secular style of dress provides an indicator to the pressures of the Penal era during the 18th century.
The Bishop is dressed in a way that makes him look more like a Protestant pastor than a Catholic bishop. You would think, from his clothes, and the context, that he was an antiquarian rather than a churchman.
During those years, priests were required to register with the government of the day. Ideas of liberty which developed through the French revolution were seen as pathways to sedition and possible secession from the union with Great Britain. The 1801 Act of Union was a final attempt to ensure no such secession might take place.
No doubt the Bishop’s dress sense was aimed at keeping a low profile during that penal period.