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Plunkett, George Noble

    Full Name: Plunkett, George Noble

    Other Names:

    • Killeen Count Plunkett, pseudonym

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1851

    Date Died: 1948

    Place Born: Dublin, Ireland

    Place Died: Dublin, Ireland

    Home Country/ies: Ireland

    Subject Area(s): biography (general genre)


    Botticelli biographer and director of the Science and Arts Museum of Ireland, 1907-16. Plunkett was the son of Patrick Joseph Plunkett (1817-1918), a builder, and Elizabeth Noble (Plunkett). The family income, derived from the Rathmines, Dublin, allowed Plunkett to attend school at Nice and Dublin (1863-7), Clongowes Wood College, county Kildare (1867-9), and beginning in 1872, Dublin University. At Dublin he studied Renaissance and medieval art among other topics, ultimately graduating in 1884. That year he married Josephine Cranny (1858-1944). Plunkett traveled widely, particularly in Italy, where he was made a Papal Count by Pope Leo XIII in 1877. Returning to Ireland, he entered politics winning a nationalist’s seat in 1900. That year, perhaps to supplement his income, he used his conversancy in both Italian and French to published a biography of Sandro Botticelli. The income allowed him to rent Kilternan Abbey, Dublin, as his home. His prominence as a Irish Republican and an art historian ultimately led to his 1907 appointment as director of the Science and Arts Museum (later National Museum) of Ireland. As director, his policies increased attendance from 100 to 3000 yearly. In 1908 he wrote the architectural history, Handbook to the Dublin District. In 1911 he revised the Early Christian art in Ireland by the late Margaret Stokes (1832-1900). His son, Joseph Mary, was part of an armed uprising for Irish independence (the Easter Rising of 1916), and ultimately executed. Plunkett was fired from the Museum and deported to Oxford the same year. He returned to Ireland illegally winning election to the Unionist party in 1917. His political front became the Sinn Féin party, although still pledged to the republic. In 1918 Plunkett was jailed again, but released after his landslide election for the Sinn Féin. In 1921 De Valera offered him the minister for fine arts position, an assignment outside the cabinet. Plunkett’s work for the ministry, including the Dante sexcentenary commemoration, was dwarfed by the treaty with Britain, which Plunkett bitterly opposed. Plunkett joined the ensuing civil war and was interned again in late 1923. Plunkett remained in pro-Republican movements in Ireland until he ultimately transferred republican authority to the Irish Republican Army army council in 1938. His wife, Josephine died in 1944. In March of 1948 Plunkett died of cancer at his home in Dublin. He is buried in the republican plot at Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin. Plunkett also wrote for the Irish Monthly under the pseudonym “Killeen,” a popular race horse.

    Selected Bibliography

    Sandro Botticelli. London: G. Bell and Sons, 1900; revised, Stokes, Margaret. Early Christian Art in Ireland. Dublin: His Majesty’s Stationery Office/Cahill, 1911; “The Architecture of Dublin.” in, Cole, Grenville Arthur James, and Praeger, R. Lloyd. Handbook to the City of Dublin and the Surrounding District. Dublin: University press/British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1908 ; Introduction to Church Symbolism.1932 [untraceable].[estate catalog] Catalogue of Books from the Library of Count Plunkett: to be Sold by Auction 3rd March, 1925 [by Walsh, Beckett and Co.] Dublin: G. O’Callaghan, 1925.


    O’Connor Lysaght, D. R. “Plunkett, George Noble, Count Plunkett in the Papal Nobility (1851-1948).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Gombrich, Ernst H. “Botticelli’s Mythologies: A Study in the Neoplatonic Symbolism of His Circle.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes (1945): 11-12, note 4; Ryan, William Patrick. The Irish Literary Revival: its History, Pioneers and Possibilities. London: Privately Printed, 1894.


    "Plunkett, George Noble." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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