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Fionnuala Croke. A ‘Prince among Benefactors’: Chester Beatty’s Legacy

In August 1962 a soft-spoken, elderly Chester Beatty (1875–1968) (Fig. 1) gave a rare interview on Irish television about his extraordinary collection of manuscripts, rare books and decorative arts from Europe, the Islamic world and Asia, and about his relationship with the country he had chosen as his home. Despite it being summer, as was his habit the American wore his coat resting on his shoulders to protect against a chill breeze. Aged 87, Beatty was a popular figure in Irish society and with the media, looked upon with affection by those with whom he came into contact. He lived alone in Ireland during the warmer months of the year, from the end of the Second World War spending the winter months in the south of France. The collection he had assembled over seven decades was a source of enormous pleasure to him, and the museum he founded in Dublin in 1953 is today one of Ireland’s favourite National Cultural Institutions, welcoming close to 400,000 visitors a year.

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May/June 2020
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