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Henry, Françoise

    Image Credit: Wikipedia

    Full Name: Henry, Françoise

    Other Names:

    • Françoise Henry

    Gender: female

    Date Born: June 1902

    Date Died: 10 February 1982

    Place Born: Paris, Île-de-France, France

    Place Died: Auxerre, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France

    Home Country/ies: France

    Subject Area(s): archaeology and Celtic (culture)


    Celtic art specialist and archaeologist; one of the first four women to be admitted to the Royal Irish Academy in 1949. Henry’s maternal great-grandfather was the French art historian and Géricault scholar Charles Clément. She was raised in the Limousin region of France, spending the years of World War I (1914-1918) at the Lycée Molière in Paris. Henry graduated from the Sorbonne, Paris, studying first under Émile Mâle and then under his successor, Henri Focillon. She entered the École du Louvre hearing the lectures of André Michel and Robert Rey and studying Celtic history under the scholar Henri Hubert (1872-1927) and the archaeology under Salomon Reinach. Henry joined Hubert at the Musée Antiquités Nationales de Saint-Germain-en-Laye (Paris environs) taking up residence in a small apartment on top of the museum. In 1926 a chance trip to Ireland at the invitation of Carrie Fitzgerald at Synone, Boherlahan (near Cashel, Ireland) convinced her that the rich extant monuments of that country made it a prime focus of early Christian scholarship for her. With the support of Focillon, Henry settled on Celtic sculpture of Ireland as a dissertation topic. She returned to Ireland to primary research, traveling the landscape by bicycle with Fitzgerald and Marie Duport. She secured an appointment in the French department at University College, Dublin in 1932. Her Doctorat d’Etat was awarded the same year with a 1933 published dissertation titled La Sculpture irlandaise pendant les douze premiers siècles de l’ère chretienne. Her secondary thesis, Les tumulus du Département de la Côte d’Or was dedicated to Hubert. She delivered annual lectures on Eruopean painting as part of the Purser-Griffiths scholarship beginning in 1934. Henry continued to research Celtic art, expanding her interest to enamels, architecture as well as other kinds of Irish carved work. An important article on suspended bronze lamps and bowls appeared in Journal of Royal Society of antiquaries of Ireland in 1936. In 1940 she issued her initial examination of the broader topic as Irish Art. After World War II she received the Legion of Honor award for her war service by the French government. She joined the Department of Archaeology at University College in 1948, creating the photography collection of Celtic monuments and objects. Though offered a university teaching post in France, she refused it. The following year she and three other women became the first elected to membership of the Royal Irish Academy, a move the Academy had investigated as early as 1931. The other three were Phyllis Clinch (1901-1984), a botanist; Eleanor Knott 1886-1975), a scholar of Irish history; and the mathematician Sheila Tinney (1918-2010). Irish Art was expanded in 1963 to the three-volume L’art Irlandais, English translations appearing in 1965-1970. Under her aegis, the Department of History of Art granted degrees in that subject, beginning in 1965. Henry next published The Book of Kells and its Decoration in 1974, retiring from teaching the same year. Henry who had divided her time between Ireland and France while teaching, lived in Lindry and Yonne, France, and Dublin in her retirement. She died at age 79 and is buried in Lindry, France.

    Selected Bibliography

    [collected essays and complete bibliography:] and Marsh-Micheli, Geneviève. Studies in Early Christian and Medieval Irish Art. 2 vols. London: Pindar, 1983-1985; [master’s thesis:] Les Tumulus du département de la Côte-d’Or. Sorbonne (?), 1930, published, Paris: Leroux, 1932; [dissertation:] La sculpture irlandaise pendant les douze premiers siècles de l’ère chrétienne. Paris: E. Leroux, 1933; “Hanging Bowls.” Journal of Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 66 (December, 1936): 209-246; Irish Art in the Early Christian Period. London: Methuen & Co. 1940; L’art irlandais. 3 vols. La Pierre-qui-Vire,Yonne: Zodiaque, 1963-1964, English, Irish Art in the Early Christian Period, to 800 A.D. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1965, Irish Art During the Viking Invasions, 800-1020 A.D. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1967, Irish Art in the Romanesque Period, 1020-1170 A.D. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1970; The Book of Kells: Reproductions from the Manuscript in Trinity College, Dublin. New York: Knopf, 1974.


    “[Sheila Tinney:] Pioneer in Field of Mathematical Physics.” Irish Times [online] June 26, 2010; Curle, Cecil. “Preface.” in Henry, Françoise, and Marsh-Micheli, Geneviève. Studies in Early Christian and Medieval Irish Art. volume 1. London: Pindar, 1983, pp. i-iii; [obituaries:] C[ecil] L. C[urle] and E. K. “Françoise Henry.” Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 112, (1982): 142-146; “Dr Francoise Henry.” Times (London) February 19, 1982, p. 12.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Henry, Françoise." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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