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Lot 59: Francis Johnston (1760-1829)An important watercolour showing the front elevation of the proposed General Post Office, Dublin 1814, the building located in in the middle of O'Connell StreetWatercolour, 47.5 x 67cm (18¾ x 26¼'')Signed and inscribed

Important Irish Art 7th December 2016

by Adam's

December 7, 2016

Dublin 2, Dublin, Ireland

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  • Francis Johnston (1760-1829)An important watercolour showing the front elevation of the proposed General Post Office, Dublin 1814, the building located in in the middle of O'Connell StreetWatercolour, 47.5 x 67cm (18¾ x 26¼'')Signed and inscribed
  • Francis Johnston (1760-1829)An important watercolour showing the front elevation of the proposed General Post Office, Dublin 1814, the building located in in the middle of O'Connell StreetWatercolour, 47.5 x 67cm (18¾ x 26¼'')Signed and inscribed
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Description: Francis Johnston (1760-1829)An important watercolour showing the front elevation of the proposed General Post Office, Dublin 1814, the building located in in the middle of O'Connell StreetWatercolour, 47.5 x 67cm (18¾ x 26¼'')Signed and inscribedFrancis Johnston was born in Armagh in 1760. He studied architecture under Thomas Cooley, one of Ireland's leading architects of the late 18th century. Numbered amongst Cooley's major commissions are The Royal Exchange, Dublin (later City Hall); The Archbishop's Palace, Armagh; Caledon, Co. Tyrone and The Public Records Office, Dublin, later incorporated into Gandon's Four Courts. The younger architect executed works in a number of styles, including Gothic. However, the elegant and measured neoclassical signature style of his master is perhaps most apparent in Johnston's designs for the new General Post Office in 1814.Francis Johnston's proposed design for the Front Façade of the General Post Office, with shops and houses on Sackville Street, Dublin c.1814.This highly important architectural design shows Francis Johnston's proposal for the front elevation of his most famous building. The neo-classical façade of the GPO in the very centre of Dublin signifies the city and is an icon of Irish national identity. The three storey façade is quite severe and monumental, it is executed in granite and Portland stone with a rusticated ground floor. The long fifteen bay front is divided into three parts by a hexastyle portico of fluted Greek Iconic columns in the centre which projects out over the pavement. The pediment is decorated with the arms of Great Britain and Ireland.The main differences shown in this view of the GPO are that the name of the building appears in the frieze and that the position of the GPO differs, as this proposal was to build across the width of Sackville Street, with houses being seen on either side.The design does not show the frieze of superbly carved anthemion and palmette as it was originally executed and may be seen today. This decoration was based on the honeysuckle flower and was common in Roman and Greek architecture.Today the façade is heavily restored but little altered from Johnston's original concept despite the destruction of 1916, the complete rebuilding of the 1920s and insensitive repairs c.1990. However, there are important differences. The original arrangement of the central round headed windows and openings may be seen in the design. The view shows the original arrangement of the doorways before they were altered in the rebuilding of the 1920s. The central opening under the portico with a wrought iron gate may be seen. Interestingly, the watercolour does not include Edward Smyth's fine statues of Hibernia, Mercury and Fidelity which stood on the pediment and were recently replaced with casts.Dr. Paul Caffrey

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