Poland’s mystery princesses – the Irish connection

The Princesses Madeleine and Olga Von Dembinska by St George Hare (€1,500-€2,000)

The Princesses Madeleine and Olga Von Dembinska by St George Hare (€1,500-€2,000)


Collectors from Poland are expected to be among the bidders at Whyte’s art auction in Dublin later this month when an unusual painting, The Princesses Madeleine and Olga Von Dembinska, goes under the hammer. The undated painting, by Irish artist St George Hare, depicts two aristocratic sisters who turned up in London sometime after the first World War and lived in genteel poverty.

Little is known about them but Princess Madeleine ended up in the 1960s working as a railway-crossing keeper in Suffolk, surely the most glamorous employee of the old British Rail. Their story was told in a BBC programme Heir Hunters last year and the pair purportedly had a claim on the Polish throne and a large inheritance in their home.

St George Hare (1857-1933) was born in Limerick and worked for some time in London. The circumstances of how he came to paint the Von Dembinska sisters are not known. Whyte’s is circulating information about the painting to the Polish embassy and community in Ireland in an effort to shed light on the mystery. The painting, estimated at just €1,500-€2,000, will be auctioned in the RDS on November 25th.

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