“In his forties, O’Connell was still a fine figure of a man. He was chested like a bull, and not without a magisterial protuberance lower down, about which he was very sensitive… His clothes, every stitch of Irish cloth, seemed to make him larger than life – a high, wide-brimmed top hat, or a fur hat in cold weather, a coat with padded shoulders, and over it a long, sweeping cloak. His face was like a Roman Emperor’s – one of the strong Emperors – square, heavy-jowled, with a broad nose and big eyes, rather pale from much work indoors. His hair was blacker, thicker, curlier and glossier than ever, being, in fact, a wig. This, when quizzed, he turned to his advantage, boasting that he had gone bald in the service of his country.”
Charles Chenevix Trench
The proposed sculpture focuses on Daniel O’Connell’s (1775-1847) ubiquitous cloak and coat and applies drapery as a unifying visual element for various aspects of the work. The significance that O'Connell placed himself on garments is evident in the fact that he presented one of his coats to Michael Considine of Ennis in recognition of activities in support of his political campaigns. The coat was passed down through the Considine family over time and is now on display in the Clare County museum. Furthermore, the statue of O’Connell in Dublin’s O’Connell Street was surrounded by controversy in 1876 over whether the statue should have a cloak. John Henry Foley (1818-1874), who was commissioned in 1865 but died while still working on the commission, had depicted O’Connell with a cloak, while his successor intended to omit the garment. The monument was unveiled in 1882 and incorporated the cloak.
In a review of King Dan, John Dornan states ‘[…] that Daniel O’Connell was not only a kind of Irish political chieftain but also very much a European intellectual and that the development of his ideas were in large part a parallel of wider European thought.” - issues very relevant to our time.