A Lady Lav­ery of great note

The Irish Times Magazine - - THE TIMES WE LIVED IN -

Bil­ious Green, per­haps. No won­der Lady Lav­ery is look­ing wist­fully, and some­what dys­pep­ti­cally, into the mid­dle dis­tance.

This is not, in fair­ness, a painted sur­face but one of those mod­u­lar fab­ric- cov­ered walls beloved of busi­ness premises. Still, Lady L must be won­der­ing why any­body at the Cen­tral Bank thought it would make a suit­able back­ground against which to hang her hus­band’s fa­mous por­trait of her as the fe­male per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of Ire­land, all kit­ted out in her best Sub­tle Sage ( or maybe even Lovely Lichen) dress.

When he was com­mis­sioned to de­sign the first se­ries of bank notes for the Ir­ish Free State in 1928, the Belfast- born por­traitist Sir John Lav­ery used his Amer­i­can wife, Hazel, as a model. She graced our notes for more than 50 years. But the spring of 2002 saw the fi­nal chap­ter in Ire­land’s tri­umphant tran­si­tion to the euro. Hun­dreds of mil­lions of the old notes were shred­ded, packed into bank note bri­quettes and dumped in land­fill.

And, in a han­dover cel­e­brated by our pho­to­graph, the por­trait of Lady Lav­ery was given on long- term loan to the Na­tional Gallery of Ire­land on Mer­rion Square. Her elfin fig­ure now re­sides on a gen­tle dove- grey wall – though she still has to bat­tle for at­ten­tion. This time the op­po­si­tion is a large, and very strik­ing, por­trait of her­self as her­self, ac­com­pa­nied by her daugh­ter Alice and step­daugh­ter Eileen.

In truth, of course, whether swathed in re­gal pur­ple or dressed as a Green Cailín, this is one lady who was never go­ing to be a shrink­ing vi­o­let.

Ar­minta Wal­lace

Ar­chive pho­to­graphs and other

Ir­ish Times im­ages can be pur­chased from irish­times. com/ pho­to­s­ales

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