Ireland day 0104. Monday 10 January 2022- Vermeer

Ireland day 0104. Monday 10 January 2022- Vermeer
Today’s summary Admin and catching up with friends in the morning (some slight progress with car) and then trip into Dublin 2 to visit National Gallery and surrounding St Stephen’s Green in the afternoon.   Met Wilde and Vermeer en route
Today’s weather Dry and bright, some sun, very little wind.   Much milder today at about 13C
Today’s overview location
(the red cross in a circle shows where Val and I are at the moment)
Close-up location

It’s not every day that an Old Master catches you by surprise and looks you in the eye. But that did indeed happen to us today.

The morning was spent on the phone keeping up with friends in the UK, then while Val was out on a run, I made some progress on the car. I discovered that the licence documents for the ancient Yaris were indeed applied for three weeks ago but the office which issues replacements is still apparently shut. Still, I have managed to identify a possible alternative in Limerick so if the other one hasn’t materialised in a week or so, we may take the Limerick option. Assuming it hasn’t been sold by then, of course. Patience is a virtue!

Once the morning’s tasks were discharged, Val pulled together a remarkably brilliant brunch (Irish bacon is just SO delicious) then we beat the well-trodden path down to the railway station and back into Dublin.

On the hastily-convened no 11 bus journey to Farmer Brown’s yesterday, we had passed through Dublin 2 – which is apparently one of the smarter suburbs of Dublin. As we whizzed through, somewhat bewildered by the speed of our passage – we had spotted a number of well known landmarks along the route, including the National Gallery of Ireland, the Shelbourne Hotel, and the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology. All looked fascinating so we decided that today we’d head down to the Gallery and then radiate out from there to see what the rest of Dublin 2 had to offer.

One of the good things about being in a tourist destination in the middle of January in the middle of a pandemic is – there are no tourists. And I have to say we were slightly blown away by the Gallery today. There was nobody there, just us and a few security guards. (Although to be fair a few more visitors did show up later on). I can normally take or leave art galleries but today’s was a bit of an exception because I really liked it. For a start the pictures did actually look like pictures – there was no overtly modern art which sometimes I find difficult to distinguish from its surroundings. Especially if it is things like piles of bricks or unmade beds. I had no such difficulty today however, and the paintings were almost without exception, spectacular.

And even if you didn’t like the art, you couldn’t help but feeling at ease in the gallery itself. It’s a really nice, interesting, gallery, beautifully modernised and split over several levels. It was a restful, tranquil sort of place – quiet and perfectly lit – and I felt as if I could probably quite comfortably move in and set up home there. Sadly I could however foresee a few practical difficulties with that plan though.

At this point, we made a surprise encounter with a woman writing a letter – or should that be A Woman Writing A Letter – an original painting by Johannes Vermeer and it is so good it really does stand out from the rest. You can see why Vermeer was called a “Grand Master”. We had no idea that it was there, and discovering it by chance made the day extra-memorable. You can read all about the chequered recent history of the painting in the caption below.

We spent a couple more hours looking around then avoided the seductions of the shop on the way out, and headed up to St Stephen’s Green, via the Government Buildings. It’s all in a very smart part of Dublin – the most attractive we’ve visited so far, actually, and we particularly liked the idea of lunch at the rather splendid Shelbourne Hotel right on the Green itself. I haven’t dared look at the prices though, and I suspect it might be one of those things you reserve for a Very Special Occasion. Almost next door, though, is the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology – equally enticing but with the merit of being free. We duly took note and started planning when we might pay a call.

By this time it was almost dark so we headed down to King Street for some late afternoon refreshment near the charming-looking Gaiety Theatre. Suitably revived, we wandered down Grafton St and looked at all the smart shops (think a smaller version of Regent St in London) and just had time to say hello to Molly Malone before beating a path to Connolly station and a swift journey back to Malahide. Molly will have to feature in a later blog, though, because I am running out of time and energy to write about her here.

So now the only challenge remaining for today is to make my website work. If you are reading this, you can assume that I have succeeded in overcoming last night’s bugs, or at least managed to effect a temporary fix. Fingers crossed!


Today’s photos (click to enlarge)

With my new mate Oscar Wilde. He has born at an unassuming terrace house just down the road from here, near Merrion Square, in 1854. He was best known for his novel “The picture of Dorian Gray” and plays such as “The importance of being Earnest”. He gained further notoriety in one of the first “celebrity trials” when he was sentenced to two years hard labour for “gross indecency with men”. He bore a striking resemblance to Hugh Grant Outside the National Gallery of Ireland. A lovely building, it shares a campus with the Government Buildings and the Department of the Taoiseach
Through the rectangular door… Into one of the many fascinating galleries in the National Gallery In the atrium – a beautiful space and although the artefact in the middle is Modern Art, which I don’t normally like, it actually fitted its surroundings perfectly. It is called “Magnus Modus” by Joseph Walsh and it was commissioned by the OPW – who seem to crop up doing Good Things all over the place
Back outside the Gallery we headed up towards St Stephen’s Green – a very smart suburb of Dublin a bit like Grosvenor Square in London. Just before you get there, you pass the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology and the entrance is so enticing that we immediately started planning our visit there Val decided that the Shelbourne Hotel was Her Sort Of Place. It’s also the most expensive in Dublin
This took us by surprise – A Woman Writing a Letter, with her Maid. It’s an original by Johannes Vermeer, the Dutch Old Master who painted it in 1670. It bears a striking resemblance to “The Girl with the Pearl Earring”, which is probably his best known work. The painting has had a recent history in ireland almost as famous as the artwork itself. It was stolen from a private collection at Russborough House (visited after the Blessington walk a few weeks ago) in 1974 by the IRA. The gang was led by British heiress Rose Dugdale whose name even I can vaguely recall from news bulletins around that time. It was recovered shortly afterwards but then stolen again in 1986 by a Dublin Gangster Martin Cahill. It was recovered in 1993 in a sting operation at Antwerp but Cahill himself met a sticky end in 1994 vwhen he was assasinated by the IRA probably because of his associations with the Ulster Voluneer Force. The previous owner donated it to the gallery after its recovery, presumably fearful that if there was third time, the painting might not be so lucky
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