Four Centuries of Cork Silver and Gold

Chased pear-shaped cream jug by John Nicolson, Cork, c. 1765.
The ‘Alsona Miaghe’ Chalice, Cork, c. 1598. Maker unknown.
Coffee Pot by Anthony Semirot, Cork, c. 1715.

As part of the Cork 2005 celebrations, a unique exhibition “Airgeadóir – four centuries of Cork silver and gold” – begins on Saturday, April 16th, 2005 at the Crawford Art Gallery. Sponsored by The Bowen Group, Airgeadóir brings together for the first time over 250 examples of the work of Cork’s silversmiths and goldsmiths.

“We are privileged to showcase this magnificent collection, highlighting the work of Cork craftspeople over four centuries”, said Mr. Peter Murray, Curator, Crawford Art Gallery. “Airgeadóir is truly one of the highlights of Cork’s programme during its tenure as European Capital of Culture”, he said.

Cork 2005 Assistant Director Thomas McCarthy commented: “Airgeadóir presents a rare opportunity to appreciate the magnificence of the work, skill of craftsmanship and beauty of design of the silversmiths and goldsmiths of Cork over the past four hundred years. I would encourage as many people as possible to see this historic collection.”

Mr. John R. Bowen, Chairman of The Bowen Group, has commissioned a piece from well-known Cork silversmith, Chris Carroll of Sean Carroll and Sons, bringing the theme of the exhibition – four centuries of Cork silver and gold - right up to date. The piece, a conical silver fruit bowl, will be featured in the exhibition.

The items for the Airgeadóir exhibition come from a number of sources across two continents. The pieces have been lent by museums, church authorities, public bodies and corporations, as well as by a number of private collectors.

Airgeadóir is presented in a series of self-contained “themes” which, taken together, offer a comprehensive look at the work of skilled and talented craftspeople. Some of the earliest items on display are communion cups, chalices and other items of church silver, including items dating from the early 1600’s. These will feature in the “Ecclesiastical” section of the exhibition, as will some superb 20th century gold and silver gilt items by Cork firm, William Egan & Sons Ltd.

A highlight of the exhibition is sure to be the inclusion of a number of Cork Maces, including that of University College, Cork, commissioned in 1910 from William Egan & Sons. The exhibition will also feature a number of gold and silver freedom boxes, including examples presented by the county towns of Bandon, Youghal, and Kinsale. These boxes were used to contain the scroll or parchment recording the admission of a recipient to the rank of “Freeman of the Borough”, which were typically presented to visiting dignitaries.

Domestic silver will form the core of the Airgeadóir exhibition, and the variety of items is truly amazing. Ranging from large soup tureens, to tiny spoons, this section of the exhibition includes coffee and teapots, trays, nutcrackers, asparagus tongs, tankards, sugar bowls, salvers, mugs, beakers, tea caddies, sauceboats, and mustard pots. The styles of these items progress from plain well-fashioned items of elegance in the 1600s and early 1700s through the exuberant rococo style of the middle of the century, which in turn gave way to the neoclassical style of the 1785-1815 period.

The Airgeadóir exhibition will showcase the work of approximately 50 silversmiths and goldsmiths, and will allow visitors to gain an appreciation of the surprising degree of artistic achievement by the Cork silversmiths and goldsmiths of days gone by.

A book has been published to coincide with the exhibition. Co-authored by John R. Bowen and Conor O’Brien “Cork Silver and Gold – Four Centuries of Craftsmanship” is published by Collins Press and is available in hardback and paperback format.

further details available by contacting:
Crawford Municipal Art Gallery
Emmet Place
Cork Ireland
T: +353 (0) 21 4907853/57

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