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the miracle of Limerick



30th annual, 6th biennial Exhibition of Visual+ Art, Limerick
Invited as part of 'Give(a)way' curated by Katerina Gregos, the Centre of Attention presents the miracle of Limerick at the Limerick City Gallery of Art. Opening: Friday 10th March 2006, 7pm, Limerick City Gallery of Art, Limerick Ireland. Exhibition running until 21st May 2006

10 March to 21 May 2006

(images here)




Stella by Charles Jarvis

'Portrait of Stella' by Charles Jervas (b 1675 Ireland - d 1739 London, Studied in Kneller's Academy 1694-95. Traveled studied and worked in Italy 1699. Returned to London 1709. Regularly visited Ireland with lengthy stays. Friend of Pope and Swift. Made principal painter to George I in 1723) Oil on linen, 76 x 63.5 (acq. 1948)
'This lady looks out at us with confidence and no little pleasure at the company she finds herself in…' LGCA collection catalogue



On our first site visit to the Limerick City Gallery of art we spoke to visitors about the collection. We hear an odd and remarkable story about a painting in the collection; a painting with apparent miraculous healing properties and a tale of a man's mother cured of tuberculosis.

Is it 'blarney' or is there something to it? Our research suggests this is not an isolated phenomenon. For instance a woman was healed of cancer recently. And a doctor's assistant on Pery Square used to send patients to look at the portrait in the 1950s. Someone even mentions one injured Munster player visiting the gallery in 1978 who was found back to full fitness the next week and able to play the match against the All Blacks.

The painting in question 'Stella' has a vague and a mysterious provenance. Little is known to substantiate this attribution to 17th C artist Charles Jervas (or Jarvis) or to the sitter as Jonathan Swift's lover Stella. Much later overpainting is thought to have been done to the features. Recently the portrait has become something of a shrine.

The singling out of one work from the collection forces us as viewers to (re)assess the other works. What do people want from art and expect from art? Something other than its own 'objectness'?

The fabrication of narrative or myth also echoes the constructed narrative inherent to any civic art collection. Feelings of powerlessness can lead people to invest art with unverifiable qualities and extraordinary myths, hoping that it is not just a dead, inert thing.

Art is accessed to provide hope on mythological, rational and mystical levels. All we have is hope and art is one major conduit of hope: that we are not alone; that we existed; that things can change; that things remain. But hope also inures people to uncomfortable realities.

Stella, the Miracle of Limerick is a scenario proposal not just to the gallery visitor but the wider public of Limerick. Stella's healing qualities provoke engagement and the raising of consciousness as to where one stands in relation to such a proposal.

The Centre of Attention, March 2006


The Centre of Attention Pierre Coinde Gary O'Dwyer


Limerick City Art Gallery


Stella the Miracle of Limerick


STella by Charles Jervas or Jarvis




Letter rom Maureen Healy sent to the Limerick Gallery City of Art