Effigy of a harper at Jerpoint Abbey


In the visitor centre of Jerpoint Abbey, near Kilkenny in Ireland, is a life size effigy of a man and a woman. Lying on their backs side by side and sumptuously dressed, the man has a miniature harp lying beside his right hand.

The effigy is quite badly damaged and eroded. For many years it stood outside in the ruined abbey, as shown in Armstrong's photograph. Then it was moved under shelter, stood on end. Now it is well preserved and protected in the visitor centre, once again lying down as it was designed to be, though separated from its tomb base.

Armstrong described the inscription on the tomb as naming William O'Banahan; Hunt in Irish Medieval Figure Sculpture, 1974, reports William O'Houlahan as the name.

The art styles of the clothing and the tomb base are used to date this sculpture to the 16th century.

Armstrong (The Irish and Highland Harps, 1904, p.25) says that the harp is much reduced in scale compared to the figures, which I think we can agree with. however he also says that it is most similar in design ot the Lamont harp, which is not correct - it is closest in shape and form to the Trinity College harp and the Queen Mary harp.

Depictions - more ancient images of Gaelic harp players.

Jerpoint harp

Jerpoint harp

Jerpoint harp
Siobhán Armstrong and Ann Heymann inspecting the sculpture in 2010