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All female reboot for Raphael’s famous fresco

A full-scale re-enactment of one of the most famous artworks of the Italian Renaissance has been launched in Dublin – with a striking twist.

Artist collective Na Cailleacha collaborated with staff and students from Trinity College Dublin to produce a contemporary version of Raphael’s School of Athens painting.

Dating from the 16th century, The School of Athens, located in the Vatican, depicts a congregation of 50 classical philosophers, mathematicians, and scientists.

All men.

Raphael’s 16th century masterpiece ‘The School of Athens’ depicts a congregation of 50 male philosophers, mathematicians, and scientists.

The new image, entitled The School of Hibernia, features an all-women cast.

“We almost couldn’t get anything that’s more the pinnacle of the canon of art history than this,” explained Catherine Marshall from Na Cailleacha.

“The original painting was set in classical, ancient Greece, with 50 men in it, including Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, people like that.

“And we just thought the thing that’s incredibly missing is women.”

‘The School of Hibernia’ (courtesy Na Cailleacha)

Last month’s re-enactment in Trinity’s Museum Building brought together women from a variety of backgrounds including the first female Irish president, Mary Robinson; the first woman president of the Royal Irish Academy, Mary E Daly; the first female Provost of Trinity, Linda Doyle; writer Melatu Uche Okorie; poet Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin; and thought leaders Sinéad Burke, Saoirse Exton and Sindy Joyce.

Ms Burke, the CEO of accessibility consultancy Tilting the Lens, said: “If we look around these hallowed halls today, what’s amazing to see is a whole different population and cohort of people.

“Yes, they are women. But they’re also women from other backgrounds and communities.

“Whether that is disabled women, queer women, trans women, women of colour, and of different religious backgrounds.

“I think it’s both an acknowledgement of the changing in society, the changing in education, but fundamentally the changing of Ireland.”

History of art and drama students from Trinity assisted in the staging and production, which was captured by photographer Ros Kavanagh.

Dr Rachel Moss from Trinity’s Department of History of Art and Architecture said:

“It has been an amazing opportunity for our students to be involved in a project that celebrates living female thought leaders, when historically so much of art has focused on male subjects. It is wonderful for our drama and art history students to be making history rather than simply studying it.”

The participants in the School of Hibernia were selected by Na Cailleacha.

One of the founding members of Na Cailleacha who took part in The School of Hibernia, artist Helen Comerford, passed away last month.

A statement on the collective’s website described her as a “wonderful colleague, (whose) worth in the art world is widely known.”


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