International Exhibition on Count Laval Nugent, Warrior and Art Collector, at NUI Galway

At the opening of a new exhibition, Laval Nugent - Warrior and Art Collector, at NUI Galway were, from left: Mike Cubbard, Mayor of Galway City; Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, NUI Galway President; Vojko Obersnel, Mayor of Rijeka; Patricia Philbin, CEO at Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture; Professor Snježana Prijić Samaržija, Rector of the University of Rijeka; Professor Daniel Carey, Director of the Moore Institute, NUI Galway; and Irena Kregar Segota, Partnership and Communications Director, Rijeka 2020. Photo Cormac MacMahon, Galway 2020.
Jul 03 2019 Posted: 10:59 IST

NUI Galway will host an international exhibition detailing the life of forgotten Irish nobleman and Croatian national hero, Laval Graf Nugent von Westmeath. Count Laval Nugent (1777 – 1862) was born in Ballynacor, Co. Westmeath, and went on to fight in the armies of Austria and the Two Sicilies. In the process he became a major collector of classical sculpture and other archaeological finds. The exhibition, Laval Nugent - Warrior and Art Collector, will run in the Hardiman Research Building, NUI Galway, until August 2019.

Laval Nugent - Warrior and Art Collector was funded by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia and developed by the Archaelogical Museum of Zagreb and the Embassy of the Republic of Croatia in Ireland. It was displayed in Dublin’s EPIC Museum earlier this year and is supported by NUI Galway’s Moore Institute and archival and print material from the James Hardiman Library.

This exhibition is part of a programme of events highlighting the links between the cities of Galway and Rijeka - both European Capitals of Culture in 2020. It details Laval Nugent’s legacy as a Croatian national hero as well as his extensive achievements as a collector of cultural and archaeological artefacts.

The exhibition was launched at NUI Galway on 28 June to coincide with the visit of a delegation from Rijeka n to the University. The group included Vojko Obersnel, Mayor of Rijeka, and Professor Snježana Prijić Samaržija, Rector of the University of Rijeka, accompanied by His Excellency, Ivan Masina, Ambassador of Croatia to Ireland.

Hosted by University President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, the delegation discussed future collaboration in areas such as student and staff exchange, research collaboration and public engagement. Laval Nugent’s personal story provides rich material of academic interest, and among those engaging with the exhibition include researchers from the Moore Institute and the disciplines of archaeology and history, in particular.

From the 16th century onwards a sizeable contingent of those who left Ireland were dispossessed and defeated rebel soldiers, commonly referred to as ‘The Wild Geese’. They went on to serve in armies and navies across the European continent often in distinct ‘Irish Brigades’. Laval Nugent was son of Count Michael Anton Nugent von Westmeath, Governor of Prague. In 1793, he joined the Austrian Army, becoming Colonel in 1807 and Chief of Staff of the Army corps of Archduke Johann of Austria in 1809. He was appointed the Supreme Military Commander in 1817 and also served in the Croatian parliament.

Laval Nugent ranks among the most distinguished of this elite cadre of noble Irish émigrés and rose to the very top of the Habsburg military and social establishment in the 19th century. Among his notable achievements, Nugent defeated Napoleon’s brother-in-law in battle, liberated Rome from the French, founded his own museum and campaigned for Croatian independence. He was even made a Papal Prince in 1816 for driving Joachim Murat from Italy.

Throughout his lifetime he developed a strong affinity with the Croatian people, their heritage and their culture. The archaeological collections he assembled can still be viewed in the Archaeological Museum of Zagreb. Nugent died on 22 August, 1862 in the Bosiljevo Castle, near Karlovac, and his body was later transferred to a sarcophagus in the Doric temple “Peace for the Hero”, in Trsat above Rijeka, next to the sarcophagus of his wife, Countess Giovannina Riario-Sforza.

Daniel Carey, Director of the Moore Institute, NUI Galway, commented: “Laval Nugent is a fascinating figure whose distinguished military career and remarkable collecting habits gave him a leading profile in the nineteenth century in Croatian history. Developments in the 20th century obscured his legacy, but the emergence of Croatia as a separate nation has restored him to prominence. This exhibition provides a chance to renew our relationship with an exceptional individual and to remember him in the country of his birth.”


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