Designing ‘The Secret of Kells’

IMG_9697Designing the Secret of Kells, by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart, with a foreword by Charles Solomon (Trinquétte Publishing, 2014)

For historians and curators, the imaginative recreation of the past presents particular, but frequently unacknowledged, difficulties. The skills needed to establish chronologies, or to tease out the causation behind historical events, or to make academic judgements about works of art, are quite different from those needed to convince an audience of the reality of the past. For this, works like Michael Crichton’s Timeline, or the movie of The Name of the Rose, allow us to glimpse a remote physical and intellectual past.IMG_9707 In the animated film The Secret of Kells, nominated for an Oscar award in 2009, the atmosphere of Ireland’s medieval monasteries and their famous artistic output is captured brilliantly by Cartoon Saloon of Kilkenny. Dwelling on the turbulence of the times, the film reveals a monastic world which is both open to visitors from abroad yet at risk from outside forces. In its inspired artistic asides, it mirrors the extraordinary qualities of the Book of Kells itself and seems to follow in a technical line from the work of the stained-glass artist Harry Clarke. When snow falls on the monastery, individual flakes take the form of crosses drawn in a myriad of designs. Such scenes call for repeated viewings and live long in the memory.IMG_9706 cropped

IMG_9704 croppedIn this new publication, Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart of Cartoon Saloon explain how they did it, and, of equal interest, they say who did what. We learn that Ross Stewart designed the scriptorium at Iona, that Tomm Moore devised the individual characters in the scriptorium, one of them a tribute to the actor Mick Lally, who played Brother Aidan and died in 2010, shortly after the release of the film, and that Adrien Merigeau was responsible for a different realisation of the scriptorium. Many a scholar of the Book of Kells would wish for such a guide.IMG_9712

 

Bernard Meehan

Emperors, operas and illumination: Brian Boru at Trinity College Dublin

Boru Image from Cartoon Saloon Feb 2014

Parnell was an ‘uncrowned king’ and O’Connell the ‘king of the beggars’, but Ireland had only one emperor: Brian Boru!

 

2014 marks the millennium anniversary of the pyrrhic victory and death of Ireland’s most celebrated king at the Battle of Clontarf. To commemorate the occasion the Library has curated an exhibition, on Brian’s life and legend, in the Long Room of the Old Library (between April and October), entitled Emperor of the Irish.

 

A highlight of the exhibition will be the ninth-century Book of Armagh, which is the only object known for certain to have been in Brian’s presence.The cream of the Library’s Irish manuscript collection will also be on display, including the twelfth-century Book of Leinster and the wonderfully illuminated sixteenth-century Book of the De Burgos. In addition, visitors will have the opportunity to view some curiosities that testify to Brian’s enduring legend, including a 1960s Mexican comic book and a nineteenth-century opera that both bear his name. 

 

An exciting feature of the exhibition will be a graphic interpretation of Brian’s life and legend by Cartoon Saloon (producers of the Academy Award nominated film The Secret of Kells). As you can see from this world-exclusive preview, the monks of Armagh probably had good reason to acclaim Brian as Imperator Scotorum — Emperor of the Irish!

 

Denis Casey