AFTER a 250 year absence a portrait of members of the famous Fitzgerald family has been returned to their ancestral home Turlough House – now the Museum of Country Life.
The painting by Johan Zoffany, which is on loan from the National Gallery of Ireland, depicts an intimate family portrait of George Fitzgerald (d 1782), and his two young sons, one of whom went on to become the infamous ‘Fighting Fitzgerald’. The notorious George Robert was a renowned duellist and was involved in a number of disputes and family quarrels. He was found guilty and hanged for murder in Castlebar in 1786.
Speaking at the launch, Séamus Lynam, Acting Director of the museum said: “It is with great pleasure that we welcome the portrait of George Fitzgerald, with his sons George and Charles, back to Turlough Park and we thank the National Gallery of Ireland for making this exhibition possible. Painted by the renowned artist, Johan Zoffany, the portrait gives us a unique insight into the privileged life of the Fitzgerald family during the late 1700s.
“The Fitzgeralds owned lands in Mayo from the 1650s and they built their homes at Turlough Park from the early 18th century. Over 250 years since it left this area, we are sure that there will be great interest regionally in its return.”
The painting was passed from one generation of the Fitzgerald family to another until it was purchased privately at an auction in Christies of London in 1900. Then in 2007 it was presented to the National Gallery of Ireland as a heritage gift.
Speaking prior to last week’s opening, Sean Rainbird, Director of the National Gallery, said: “It is fitting that Zoffany’s colourful and lively composition of the Fitzgeralds will go on public in the family’s ancestral home in Turlough Par. We are delighted for the opportunity to share this wonderful painting from our collection and hope it will be enjoyed by the many visitors to the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Castlebar.”
The exhibition will run until April 2013 and admission is free. Visitors can also see a pair of duelling pistols, similar to those used by George Robert Fitzgerald. They are on display in the Landlord’s Library at Turlough Park.
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