Westport House sculpture to be sold in London auction

Sale of French ‘masterpiece’ Boulonnaise allaitant to raise money for upkeep of stately home

Boulonnaise allaitant: a “supremely rare” masterpiece

Boulonnaise allaitant: a “supremely rare” masterpiece

Tue, May 6, 2014, 01:00

A “masterpiece” sculpture from Westport House – of a French woman breastfeeding her child – is to be sold at auction in London to raise funds for the upkeep of one Ireland’s best-known stately homes.

Sotheby’s in London hopes to raise up to £500,000 (€600,000) from Boulonnaise allaitant (A Young Mother from Boulogne feeding her Child)’, described as “a supremely rare life-size masterpiece in terracotta” by the great 19th-century French artist Aimé-Jules Dalou.

Westport House, overlooking Clew Bay in Co Mayo, is owned by the 11th Marquess of Sligo, Jeremy Browne, who said “the proceeds raised through its sale [of the sculpture] will secure the future of one of Ireland’s best-loved attractions for generations to come.”

The sculpture was bought in 1876, directly from the artist, by his ancestor the third Marquess of Sligo and exhibited in London before being installed in Westport House. It has been seen by many of the 4 million visitors to the house since it opened to the public in 1960.

Alexander Kader of Sotheby’s sculpture department said Dalou (1838-1902) was “one of the greatest French sculptors of the 19th century” and Boulonnaise allaitant is “one of the artist’s defining masterpieces” and among the last museum-quality life-size works by him still in private ownership. The auction takes place in London on May 21st.

Westport House is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the west of Ireland. Its visitor attractions include rooms filled with art and antiques, a lake with swan-shaped pedalos and an adventure park inspired by the family’s direct lineage to Grace O’Malley (Granuaile), the 16th-century “pirate queen” of Connaught.