Daniel Maclise, Irish, 1806-1870
Title: The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife
Date: c.1854
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
315 x 513 cm
Credit Line: Presented, Sir Richard Wallace, 1879
Object Number: NGI.205
DescriptionThe subject of this monumental picture is the marriage at Waterford in 1170 of the Norman military adventurer Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow, to Aoife, daughter of Dermot McMurrough, King of Leinster. Having lost his lands to rival lords, McMurrough sought the assistance of Strongbow in return for his title and lands after his death, and the hand of his daughter. The union has often been identified as representing the formal establishment by the Normans of a foothold in Ireland. Conceived for the decoration of the Palace of Westminster, Maclise’s painting corresponded to a commission for designs representing ‘the acquisition of the countries, colonies and important places constituting the British Empire’. It is not, however, an unqualified glorification of imperialism, but rather a wilfully ambiguous representation of the dignified, victorious Normans and the vanquished Irish. Strongbow places his foot upon a fallen Celtic cross, King Dermot looks on in alarm, an elderly harpist slumps on his instrument (the strings of which are conspicuously broken), and defeated Irish defenders lie dead in the foreground.
Maclise, who often consulted antiquarian friends in the preparation of his work, describes tattoos, architectural detail, armour, weaponry and even plants with meticulous care. He also drew on literary sources, but neither the historical nor the material accuracy of his paintings can be relied upon.

March 2016


ProvenanceBought by Lord Northwick from the Artist, 1855; Philips, London, 26 July 1859, Lord Northwick sale; Christie's, London, 1879; Sir Richard Wallace; presented, Sir Richard Wallace, 1879
Exhibition HistoryRoyal Academy of Arts, London, 1854
Label TextThe subject of this monumental and meticulously detailed picture is the marriage at Waterford in 1170 of the Norman military adventurer Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow, and the daughter of Dermot McMurrough, King of Leinster. The union has often been identified as representing the formal establishment of a Norman foothold in Ireland. Conceived for the decoration of the Palace of Westminster, the painting is an ambiguous representation of the victorious Normans and the vanquished Irish. Strongbow places his foot upon a fallen Celtic cross, King Dermot looks on in alarm, and an elderly musician slumps on his harp.