The Royal Irish Academy/Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann champions research. We identify and recognise Ireland’s world class researchers. We support scholarship and promote awareness of how science and the humanities enrich our lives and benefit society. We believe that good research needs to be promoted, sustained and communicated. The Academy is run by a Council of its members. Membership is by election and considered the highest academic honour in Ireland.

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A short note on some sculptures

31 August 2020

For this month's Library blog post we take a little look at some of the Academy's sculptures

Above the bookcases of the Reading Room and Meeting Room the faces of ancient Roman emperors and other historical figures stare ahead, stony-faced. They are part of the furniture, a constant presence as we go about our daily work. Sometimes, on a gloomy day, with lights low they can seem quite eerie.

Vierpyl busts in the Reading Room

The largest single collection of sculptures held by the Academy was made by Simon Vierpyl. This unique mid-18th century series of busts of Roman emperors and others were copied from originals in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. The sculptures (height 33-37 cm) were made in terracotta and were sent to Dublin in 1755. Originally displayed in Charlemont House on Rutland Square, they were presented to the Academy in 1868 by James Caulfeild, 3rd Earl of Charlemont. Thirteen of the 66 surviving busts are displayed over the mantelpiece in the Meeting Room, the others are displayed above the bookshelves. For more information on the Vierpyl busts see our new Special Collections page.

The Vierpyl busts collection will feature on the Sculpture Dublin website early next month. Sculpture Dublin, a new Dublin City Council public art initiative.

Vierpyl busts in the Meeting Room

One of the largest sculptures in the Academy’s collection is of the head of Minerva (or Athena), a copy of a sculpture from the Louvre, Paris. At 104 cm high, too large to sit atop the bookshelves, the goddess of wisdom sits on the Meeting Room gallery guarding the books. The name of the artist is not known.

Minerva Goddess of wisdom 

Keep up to date with our blog posts, we'll take a look at some more Academy sculptures later in the year.

Sophie Evans
Assistant Librarian

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