Architect and painter, of Rome, London and Dublin. Vincent Waldré is said to have been born Vincenzo Valdrati at Faenza in Italy. He studied painting from an early age, first at Parma, where his father held a court appointment, and later at the French Academy in Rome. He is recorded in London in 1774, designing scenery for the Italian opera. In England he was taken up by George Grenville, whom he may have met in Italy. Grenville employed him extensively at Stowe to decorate the interior of the house and design buildings in the demesne. In 1787 Grenville, now Marquess of Buckingham, was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and invited Waldré to Dublin to work on the decoration of the ceiling and walls of St Patrick's Hall in the Castle: Faulkner's Dublin Journal for 18-20 September 1788 notes the arrival from England of a number of artists 'by the special nomination of his Excellency the Marquis of Buckingham, for the purpose of decorating the rooms at the Castle', adding that 'Mr Waldré the principal painter imported on the occasion is esteemed by amateurs to be the first in his profession'. Daniel Beaufort records seeing 'Waldré's paintings' at the Castle in February 1789; this must presumably have been the sketch for his scheme which now belongs to the Royal Dublin Society or work in progress, for in October Faulkner's Dublin Journal reported that the paintings for the ceiling 'are not yet finished, but it is expected that they will be completed and fitted up before the arrival of the new Lord Lieutenant'. In fact Waldré's scheme in its entirety remained unfinished at his death.
According to a memorial addressed by Waldré's widow to the Lord Lieutenant, progress on the paintings was interrupted by his appointment as the Barrack Board's architect and inspector of civil buildings in 1792, following the death of THOMAS PENROSE. At this point his salary as a painter, originally fixed at £600 per annum, was stopped, even though he continued to be consulted and employed in the design and execution of ephemeral decorations for Court festivities at the Castle. According to his widow, he longed to complete the paintings for St Patrick's Hall but was forbidden by the terms of his appointment to do so or to undertake any private commissions.
As architect and inspector of civil buildings, Waldré was responsible for rebuilding the debating chamber in the Irish House of Commons which was destroyed by fire in in 1792. According to Mulvany's Life of James Gandon, the design was compromised by the interference of an unidentified MP, as a result of which 'it was covered with a roof in the shape of a waggon head, surmounting a high brick wall, with chimneys, which had a most disgusting appearance'. Speaker John Foster was of the opinion that Waldré had 'no idea of light or warmth but to exclude them'. Waldré's friend Gandon believed that he started as an architect 'perhaps too late to earn distinction in so arduous a profession' and held a job which 'afforded him but little opportunity for the exercise of display of cultivated taste or original powers of compostion'. Waldré was a subscriber to the second book of James Lewis's Original Designs in Architecture (1797).
Following the Act of Union in 1801, the civil and military responsibilities of the Barrack Board were separated. In 1802 Waldré was removed from the position of architect and inspector of civil buildings, in which he was succeeded by ROBERT WOODGATE , and transferred to the Barrack Department as one of the inspectors general of barracks. He remained in this post until at least 1806.
In 1794 Waldré built a house at Roebuck, Co. Dublin, but whether it was for his own use or not is not recorded. According to Mulvany's Life, he eventually retired to a cottage on the Celbridge Road near Leixlip which he refurbished as a cottage orné. The neighbourhood was insalubrious, however, and one night the house was attacked by robbers who tied the Waldrés to the bedpost, beat them and stripped the house of its contents. The Waldrés, much shaken be the experience, moved to lodgings near Dublin. Waldré died in August 1814 at the age of seventy-two; his wife, Mary, whom he had married on impulse in unusual circumstances while he was working at Stowe, did not long survive him. Mulvany's Life describes his attractive, open character: 'In his intercourse with society, his amiable and unassuming manners procured him many friends, and rendered his company truly desirable. Guileless as a child, with a warm impulsive nature, an acquaintanceship of five minutes exhibited his character as fully as the more tedious development of as many years.'
Between 1800 and 1804 Waldré exhibited subject paintings and architectural designs at the Society of Artists of Ireland. The architectural designs, both exhibited in 1800, were a plan for a theatre (No. 96) and 'Elevation of the Commercial Buildings, approved by the committee, May 1795' (No. 100). A portrait of Waldré with paintbrushes and palette, painted by William Cuming in 1800, is in the National Gallery of Ireland.. His headstone, though moved, is likely in St Kevin's Park, Camden Row. The inscription reads 'Here Lies the Body of Vincent Waldré Architect &c &c Whose modest and Intrinsic Merit Gain'd him many Friends'.
Address: 12 Charlemont Street, 1804.
See WORKS and BIBLIOGRAPHY.
Information on Waldré's origins and early life is from Michael Gibbon, 'A Forgotten Italian at Stowe', Country Life 141, 4 Aug 1966, 260-261.(This is probably taken from E. Croft Murray, Decorative Painting in England 1537-1837 (1970), II, 288-89.)
Daniel Beaufort's diary, 14 Feb 1785 (IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc. 2008/44).
The sketch is mounted as a table top. See John Gilmartin, 'Vincent Waldré's ceiling paintings at Dublin Castle', Apollo 95 (Jan 1972), 42-47.) and James White & Kevin Bright, Treasures of the Royal Dublin Society (1998), 24,38(illus.).
Faulkner's Dublin Journal, 29-31 Oct 1789; the new Lord Lieutenant, John, 10th Earl of Westmoreland, was appointed on 5 January 1790.
E. McParland, 'A Note on Vincent Waldré', Apollo95 (Nov 1972), 467; Róisín Kennedy, Dublin Castle Art (1999), 18-23(illus.).
Memorial of Mary Waldré to the Lord Lieutenant, Charles, Earl Whitworth, written between Aug 1814 and Jan 1815, NA/SPO 559/437/5; the memorial is treated in more detail by McParland, loc.cit.
For this post see Frederick O’Dwyer, ‘Architecture, Politics and the Board of Works, 1760-1860’, Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies 5 (2002), 131-2.
Payments for his work on the hall during 1791 are published in JHCI 15, Appendix cccxliii (IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc. 2008/44).
See note 6, above. Such ephemeral work appears to have been part of his duties as a painter at the Castle from the outset (Faulkner's Dublin Journal, 21-23 May 1789, praises his 'transparencies' for the St Patrick's Ball), while payments for painting 'transparencies &c.' for the 'Celebration of Peace' (in 1801?) are recorded as late as 1807 (IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc. 2008/44, citing Board of Works minutes, Book 2, 8 May 1807).
Samuel Hayes, MP (q.v.) could be a possible candidate.
T.J. Mulvany, ed., The Life of James Gandon, Esq. (1846), 89.
NA/SPO 509/26/15 (IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc. 2008/44).
Mulvany, op.cit., 145.
IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc. 2008/44.
See O'Dwyer, op.cit., 135. His memorial requesting compensation on his change of job is in NA/SPO 521/143/1 (IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc. 2008/44).
Bryan Bolger MSS, NA/PRO 1A/58/127.
Mulvany, op.cit., 147-8.
For an account of the marriage, see Mulvany, op.cit., 145-7.
Mulvany, op.cit., 148.
Mulvany, op.cit., 145.
IALE, II, 744.
No.4047; repr. in N. Figgis & B. Rooney, Irish Paintings in the National Gallery of Ireland (2001), 115.
See note 21, above. Information about the headstone kindly submitted by Sinéad Hughes by email, May 2020.