A friend of mine recently visited Ireland and toured the famed Russborough House in County Wicklow, Ireland. He graciously allowed me to use some of the photos he took of this grand estate.
Said to be an excellent example of Palladian architecture, Russborough was built between 1741 and 1755. The home was designed by Richard Casseks for the 1st Earl of Milltown, Joseph Leeson. This was right around the time that my peasant, potato-farming ancestors were being kicked out of Ireland and banished to the New World. But it’s all good now.
Russborough House is not only one of the grandest estates in Ireland, it is also said to be the longest – as visible in this Wikipedia photo below:
The frontage of the building measures in at 210 m (700 ft)!
Russborough House has an interesting history – as I will touch on in a minute. But first, have a look at some of the aesthetic features.
The interior of the house contains some ornate plasterwork on the walls and ceilings which was done by the famous Lafranchini brothers – a Swiss duo who were known for their work in rococo-style stucco .
The intricacy is absolutely stunning.
Russborough House is also home to a wealth of period antiques.
But it is probably best known for the massive art collection housed within its walls.
Russborough has actually housed two fine arts collections during its existence. The first collection was begun with the Milltown estate and was eventually donated to the National Gallery of Ireland by the widow of the sixth earl.
Sir Alfred Beit purchased the house in 1952 and he housed his own family’s collection there. His holdings included many famous artists, including Goya, Vermeer, Peter Paul Rubens, and Thomas Gainsborough.
The current collection has been robbed not once, not twice, but a remarkable FOUR times!
Most of the paintings have since been recovered including Gainsborough’s Madame Bacelli and Vermeer’s Lady writing a Letter with her Maid, both of which were stolen twice.
(One of House Crazy Sarah’s useless degrees was in art history so she finds this kind of thing endlessly fascinating.)
Notice how in the photo above, there appears to be a section of the wall cut out – right through the decorative plaster. Trap door maybe?
The artwork simply compliments the luxurious interior of the home. Everywhere one looks, there are details rich in history and steeped in story.
More of that incredible plasterwork….
Although the house remained occupied by a descendent of the owner until 2005, the art collection and the mansion were opened up for public viewing in 1978.
In the winter of 2010 a large fire severely damaged the west wing of the house and caused part of the roof to collapse. Mercifully, none of the artwork was damaged because it had been previously removed for restoration of the west wing. The fire was most likely caused from faulty wiring in the roof.
I love this pastoral view of the Irish countryside out one of the upper windows:
Special thanks to my friend RB for allowing me to share these photos!
You can read more about the Russborough House robberies here.