'Hispanista' who became an authority on Spanish art, writes Javier Garrigues
WITH the death of Rosemarie Mulcahy last month, Spain has lost a true Irish friend and a distinguished "hispanista".
When, in 2001, Rosemarie accepted the Cross of the Order of Isabel la Catolica, bestowed upon her by the King of Spain in recognition of her many years of studies of Spanish art, she expressed her joy at having been officially adopted by Spain, the country she had long considered her second home.
Her first encounter with Spain, as is the case for so many Irish citizens, was as a tourist. She then worked in Madrid for the Spanish couturier Pedro Rodriguez as a fashion model. But having been raised in a family where religious art had a strong presence, she was naturally attracted to Spanish art. This new direction in her relationship with Spain was sparked by Abraham and the Three Angels by Navarrete "el Mudo", a Spanish Renaissance painter on whom Rosemarie later became a recognised expert. This large painting hanging in the National Gallery of Ireland, commissioned by Philip II for the Escorial, marked her lifelong involvement with the studies on that extraordinary palace and mausoleum that the Spanish monarch built on the foothills of the Guadarrama, just north of Madrid.
After years of research and investigation, that took her to the four corners of Spain and intensified her love and appreciation for the rich variety of the country's culture, Rosemarie wrote The Decoration of the Royal Basilica of El Escorial, in which she provided the first thorough reconstruction of King Philip's grand design of the Basilica.
Her contribution to the knowledge and understanding of the reign of Philip II, took a major step with the publication of her book Philip II of Spain, where the cliche of the monarch as stern defender of the Catholic faith is tempered and enriched by his image as patron and collector of art. Little had been published in English before Rosemarie's book on Philip's remarkable achievement of giving the arts in Spain, then largely provincial, a truly international and modern dimension.
Rosemarie became an authority on Spanish art both in Spain and internationally. She published in the Burlington Magazine, Apollo and Archivo Español de Arte, and is the author of the catalogue Spanish Paintings in the National Gallery of Ireland and Navarrete el Mudo, Pintor de Felipe II. She was an honorary associate of the Hispanic Society of America, an honorary member of the Royal Hibernian Academy and an honorary senior fellow in the Department of the History of Art in University College Dublin.
Rosemarie, whose maiden name was Scully, was married to Sean Mulcahy and lived in Leeson Park, Dublin. She had an enduring relationship with UCD, graduating with a BA in 1973 and later teaching an annual module in the Department of History of Art (now the UCD School of Art History and Cultural Policy). At the time of her death she was Adjunct Professor in Art History, a role she had fulfilled for a year. Described by colleagues as a "generous and popular teacher", she was also a Visiting Professor in Renaissance Studies at Smith College, Northampton, US in 2009.
She was, above all, a most elegant and distinguished ambassador for Spain in Ireland. She will be truly missed by her mother Lil, her husband Sean and their extended family and the many Irish friends of Spain. Rosemarie Mulcahy died on September 5.
Javier Garrigues is the Ambassador of Spain to Ireland