The Stones of Dublin: science, art, and symbolism in the Victorian city.
The stupendous and influential Museum Building of Trinity College Dublin, begun in 1853 to designs by the Cork firm of Deane & Woodward, was the precursor to their Oxford University Museum of Natural History. This paper considers why the first realisation of John Ruskin’s Venetian-inspired vision occurred in Dublin at a pivotal moment in Irish history and weighs aesthetic motives against developments in science and industry and an increasing politicisation of Ireland’s natural resources. The building’s celebrated stone carving by the virtuoso O’Shea brothers, traditionally represented as work of unbridled native genius, is critically examined in the context of contemporary artisanal training in Britain and Ireland. Likewise, the logistics of the building industry are shown to have had tangible impact on the realisation of Deane and Woodward’s design.