The beautiful and fascinating displays in the Hunt Museum date from the Stone Age to modern times. Over the course of the twentieth century, John and Gertrude Hunt gathered together this diverse collection of art and antiquities, especially known for its religious works, and bequeathed it to the people of Ireland. You’ll get the best idea of the spirit of the place in the Epilogue Room, which juxtaposes pieces of wildly different origins, such as an eighteenth-century Chinese porcelain cockerel and an English stone rabbit from the fifteenth century. In the 1990s, a fitting venue was found for the bequest in the old Custom House on Rutland Street, built in the 1760s in elegant Palladian style and best appreciated from the river side.
Particular pieces to look out for include the beautiful, early ninth-century Antrim Cross, one of the finest examples of early Christian metalwork from Ireland. Made of bronze decorated with enamel in geometric and animal designs, it was discovered by chance in the River Bann in the nineteenth century. Keep an eye out also for the Beverley Crozier, a piece of walrus ivory intricately carved with miracles of healing, dating from the eleventh century; a vivacious, rearing bronze horse by Leonardo da Vinci; and a ten-drachma coin, minted in Syracuse in the fourth or fifth century BC, which is reputed to be one of the thirty pieces of silver received by Judas for betraying Christ – it was highly revered from the thirteenth century on as a relic of the Crucifixion, despite its portrayal of the pagan Greek demigods, Arethusa and Nike. Other highlights include works by fine Irish artists such as William Orpen, Jack B. Yeats and Roderic O’Connor, and a whole room devoted to depictions of the Crucifixion – which the museum’s map-guide aptly misspells as “Crucifixation”.