Vincent Waldré, Historical Painter

(b. about 1742, d. 1814)

Historical Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

A native of Vicenza, in Italy; born about 1742. He commenced his career as an artist in Rome, but was in London in 1774, when he sent from 20 Frith Street, Soho, a picture, "Jupiter and Thetis," to the Exhibition of the Free Society. George, Earl Temple, afterwards Marquess of Buckingham, employed him in the decorations at Stowe. On the ceiling of the music room he painted a "Dance of Hours," with "The Seasons," etc., round the frieze; and, in two compartments, the "Revels of Sardanapalus" and a "Bacchanalian Procession." The design for the ceiling of the saloon was taken principally from the columns of Trajan and Antoninus, the arches of Severus and Titus, and other Roman remains. When the Marquess of Buckingham went to Ireland in 1787, as Lord Lieutenant for the second time, Waldré accompanied him, and was commissioned to carry out decorations in the Castle. His chief work was the ceiling of St. Patrick's Hall. The work consists of three large designs; in the centre the subject is "George III, supported by Liberty and Justice," and at the ends are "St. Patrick converting the Irish to Christianity," and "Henry II receiving the submission of the Irish Chieftains." Round the ceiling and cornices is a deep coving painted with devices. Waldré obtained great credit for this work, which occupied him for several years, and he was appointed architect to the Board of Works in place of Thomas Penrose, deceased.

He had originally submitted a scheme for the improvement of St. Patrick's Hall which was not carried out. In this the south side was to be taken down and replaced by a range of Corinthian columns, with a semi-circular sweep, forty feet in diameter, beyond. The principal entrance was to be on the opposite side from the State dining-room, and the wall was to be adorned by a large painting of the Installation of the Knights of St. Patrick, and with medallion portraits of the original Knights. In his capacity as architect to the Board of Works Waldré was entrusted with the rebuilding of the House of Commons after the fire of 1792. His design included the erection of a dome in place of that which had been destroyed; but, unfortunately, he was compelled to deviate from this and content himself with a plain waggon-roof.

Waldré is said to have designed many other buildings in Ireland, but nothing further is known of his work as an architect. He superintended the decoration and scenery of the Crow Street theatre which was carried out by Zafforini (q.v.) and others. He also, in 1793, painted the ceiling, proscenium, etc., of the Fishamble Street music hall when it was converted into a private theatre. He painted a few historical easel pictures, and contributed to the exhibitions in Dublin in 1800, 1801, 1802 and 1804. In the first year he sent "Joseph and Potiphar's Wife," and in 1801 "St. Patrick converting the Druids," his address in both these years being "Dublin Castle." Of the last-named work, which was one of the large decorative pictures for St. Patrick's Hall, the "Freeman's Journal" said: "Though it may fail of attracting to it the admiration of the public, it possesses strong claims to the attention of the young artist, to whom it may convey much useful instruction. The anatomical parts of the figures are well and faithfully expressed, and the outline bold and correct." In 1802 he exhibited "Henry II meeting the Irish Chiefs," also done for St. Patrick's Hall. In noticing this the "Freeman's Journal" (17th June, 1802) said: "His pictures are calculated for distant effect, the scenery of a theatre or the compartmental or ceiling decoration of large rooms."

In 1804 Waldré was living at No. 12 Charlemont Street. At one time he had a small cottage near Leixlip; but his experience of country life was unpleasant. His house was broken into by thieves, who not only stripped it of everything of value, but bound the luckless artist and his wife to a bedpost and inflicted on them a severe beating. Boulger, the leader of the gang, was afterwards convicted and hanged.

Waldré had married when he was at Stowe. The story of his marriage he himself used to relate. Being invited to a wedding, and the bridegroom failing to appear, Waldré gallantly offered himself to the disappointed bride as a substitute, and was promptly accepted.

Waldré died in August, 1814, aged 72. Though somewhat vain and impulsive, his simple, unassuming manners and amiable character made him popular and procured him many friends.

A small water-colour, "View of Howth Abbey," by him is in Gabriel Beranger's collection in the Royal Irish Academy.

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