Object Detail

Leabhar na hAiséirighe (The Book of Resurrection)

Leabhar na hAiséirighe (The Book of Resurrection)

The Milesians page from Art O'Murnaghan's illuminated manuscript Leabhar na hAiséirighe (The Book of Resurrection) was commissioned in 1924 by the Irish Republican Memorial Committee (IRMC) to honour the leaders of the Easter Rising. The page is one of twenty-six vellum sheets filled with Celtic Revival motifs created by the self-taught artist - a magnum opus that was only completed a few years before his death in 1954.

Born Art Murnaghan in Southampton, England in 1872 into family with County Down ancestry, he was awarded a scholarship to Cambridge University but trained instead as a chemist and worked as a librarian before moving to Dublin in 1898 where he changed his name to the more Irish-sounding O'Murnaghan and joined the Gaelic League. O'Murnaghan went on to become involved in the world of Irish theatre, both on and off the stage, wrote poetry and worked as a wallpaper designer and a teacher.

In 1922 he came to the attention of fellow poet and mystic Ella Young, Secretary of the IRMC. She was so impressed with his monochrome illustration 'Éire' that she proposed the work as a prototype for the Rising memorial that was then under consideration. Leabhar na hAiséirighe was created in three phases between 1924 and 1951, one of which was funded by leading Clann na nGael activist in the United States, Joseph McGarrity. The Milesians page belongs to the first phase and was originally one of two that depicted the last Celtic race to settle in Ireland. The second page unfortunately went missing in 1927 while on a fund-raising tour in California and was recreated, with some changes, by O'Murnaghan.

O'Murnaghan died in 1954 almost penniless having been refused a pension from the Department of Education on the basis that he was not a civil servant. (Biographical details: S. Heise, 'Leabhar na hAiséirighe', Irish Arts Review, 2012)

Object Details

Art O'Murnaghan
Dublin, Ireland
© National Museum of Ireland. Reproduction rights owned by the National Museum of Ireland.