Re: Re: reordering and destruction of irish cathedrals – St Colmans Cathedral, Cobh

Home Forums Ireland reorganisation and destruction of irish catholic churches Re: Re: reordering and destruction of irish cathedrals – St Colmans Cathedral, Cobh


@Graham Hickey wrote:

Maybe you could answer R.Larkin – did John Smyth ever live up to his father’s skill and reputation? Often thought he must have been a hard act to follow 🙂

Who was the finer sculptor of the two do you think? What other work in Ireland is his, as you never hear much about him aside from the GPO and Pro, unlike Edward who crops up everywhere! Thanks.

H.Potterton thinks the son is a better sculptor of church monuments than the father. There are monuments by Smyth in St Patrick’s Cathedral (several),St Werburgh’s, St Ann’s,Dawson St.,St George’s,Hardwick Place (2),Lisburn Cath.,Goresbridge,Co.Kilkenny,Ferns Cath.,Armagh Cath.,Newry (several), andSt Peter’s,Drogheda (2) all C.of I.Some of these monuments are quite accomplished for example the monument to John Ball in St Patrick’s.He had a talent for portraiture evidenced in some of his classical medallion style low reliefs on monuments. The Ascension in the Pro seems to be the most unsatisfying of all his work; I think one would have to see it from above. From the door it seems to get lost.
The freestanding statue of George Ogle M.P. in St Patrick’s Cathedral,though unsigned, is attributed to him. I think this is his most interesting work. He seems to have captured the character of this rather controversial man who also features in Francis Wheatleys painting of the Irish House of Commons.
There is also a signed monument by Smyth in Holy Trinity Church,Newport, Rhode Island.
J.Smyth carved the figures and the tympanum over the College of Surgeons and several busts still in the possession of the college. St Andrew over the church in Westland Row is also attributed to him, the first statue outside a Catholic church since penal times. An uncharacteristic crucifixion at the back of St Michan’s R.C. church is by him. His father had carved a wooden crucifixion for the then chapel in Navan in the 1770’s. This still exists.
The G.P.O. figures have now been replaced by casts. The originals are in the O.P.W. store. One authority has attributed these to Thomas Kirk but most think they were by J.Smyth. The Royal Arms at the entrance to the Kings Inns have been credited to both himself and his father. Since his father died in 1812 it seems more likely that this was the work of the son.
Smyth worked with his father on the carvings of the Chapel Royal, Dublin Castle and completed the work since his father died two years before it was finished. The heads on the rear garden wall of Francis Johnston’s house at 64 Eccles St bear a strong likeness to the heads at the Chapel Royal. One of these heads is George III. John Smyth’s first exhibited work was a bust of George III, A joint work with his father. This house has been discussed on another thread.The low reliefs on the front of the house may be by Smyth. He was master of the R.D.S. modelling school for 24 years. These are fairly weathered at this stage but they strongly resemblre the style of a charming low relief of Venus and Cupid by Smyth in marble, now hanging in the members’ bar of the R.D.S. It forms a pair with a low relief by Thomas Kirk called ‘The Drunken Banditti’!
It happens that where you find Francis Johnston you will also find one of the Smyths. The little church in Goresbridge was also by Johnston. Edward Smyth did a bust of Johnston. Some people believe that the companion bust of Johnston’s wife was by John. These are now in the possession of the Ulster Museum.
J.Smyth did the keystone heads at the bridge et the Four Courts, (Richmond,now O’Donovan Rossa Bridge).These have also suffered from weathering.
John Smyth was commissioned by the Apprentice boys of Derry to carve a statue of Rev. George Walker,hero of the siege. This was mounted on a massive pillar resembling Nelson’s Pillar. It was possible to climb steps within it to the top. It looked out threateningly over the Bogside until it was finally blown up in 1973. The Walker Memorial was the biggest landmark in Derry until that date.
In the past few days I have discovered that Smyth worked on the carving of the Gothic dining room in the neo-Gothic Gosford Castle,Co Armagh. I am trying to establish its condition. It was derelict for some time but I believe some attempts were made to restore it. Anyone know anything about this place? The same architect (Thomas Hopper) did work at Slane Castle and also designed the gothic conservatory at Carlton house. could Smyth have done some stucco at Slane?
Smyth’s descendants continued to work as monumental sculptors based in North Brunswick St. ,later Pearse St, down to the 1930’s. The last member of the family I see mentioned repaired the statue of Liberty over the Bank of Ireland (portico at Westmoreland St. side) in 1946. He restored her rod and cap which had disappeared in 1803. Look for Liberty’s cat at her feet when next you pass. This man was George Edward Smyth, great-great grandson of our Custom house man Edward Smyth. I think he may have lived in Sandymount,off St John’s Rd. towards the end of his life. There must be members of this family still around. It would be very exciting to track them down.

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