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Miracle painting could bring victory by Pamela Duncan, Limerick Post, Thursday 20 April 2006

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Limerick Post article


    IT SEEMS that everybody with a permanent residence in the region becomes a Munster supporter sooner or later. But there is no stranger fan than a 300 year portrait, who allegedly backs the reds.

Many are hoping it will bring the Munster team victory again on Sunday against Leinster, including one of the biggest sceptics of the "miracle of Limerick”, curator of the city gallery of art, Mike Fitzpatrick.

Stella, a portrait in the Limerick City Gallery of Art has attracted interest recently after rumours circulated that the painting is charmed. This has led to people leaving notes and prayers at the foot of the painting as well as Munster memorabilia to entice Heineken Cup victory.

Stella at the Limerick City Art Gallery

But Mr Fitzgerald says that faith in the painting is unsubstantiated. "There is no documented evidence to support these rumours and as director of the gallery I would totally frown on them. It seems that the myth has come out of thin air but is growing at pace.”

Although Stella has been part of the gallery’s collection since 1948, offerings to the painting only started to appear shortly before opening of the EV A exhibition in March. Unconfirmed reports that both a tuberculosis and cancer sufferer were healed by the work have abounded as well as talk of a Pery Square doctor’s assistant who supposedly sent patients to the painting back in the 1950s.

But while the curator of the gallery remains sceptical about the exhibit, even he cannot deny the impact it has had. "I suppose consciously or subconsciously you start associating the picture with these mysterious qualities. But I hope it works for the Leinster match”, he smiled.

Thought to have been painted by Irishman Charles Jarvis, Stella has also attracted the attention of rugby supporters. Hearsay indicates that an injured Munster player who is said to have visited the work in 1978 was cured a week before the All Black’s match, which Munster went on to win and a recent win over Perpignan will doubtlessly spur more tributes.

In the gallery, a spotlight falls on Stella giving an other worldly feel to what has become somewhat of a shrine. Flowers, cards and coins surround the portrait and a number of notes have been placed beneath it.

One card placed at the foot of the painting reads "Thank you so much Stella. I said a wee prayer to you and you have helped me no end. It has been difficult but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel now. Thank you again.”

The phenonomen of the portrait was ‘discovered’ by artists Pierre Coinde and Gary O’Dwyer of the Centre of Attention during their first visit to the gallery and the artists set about establishing the mystical importance of the work.

According to the artists; "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.”

EV A 2006 runs at the Limerick City Gallery of Art until May 21.