Dublin man surprised to see his mother in Seán Keating painting up for auction
A DUBLIN solicitor has solved the mystery surrounding the identity of two women in a painting by Seán Keating that was sold at auction in Dublin last week.
The man saw a photograph of the painting in The Irish Times and was astonished to discover that one of the women is his late mother.
Julian Deale (72), of Monkstown in south Dublin, said that he “nearly had a cardiac arrest with excitement” when he opened the paper last Saturday week and saw Past Definite, Future Perfect, which depicts an elderly woman and a young woman over a card game.
He instantly recognised his mother Sally as the younger of the two women.
She was 26 when the painting was made 84 years ago. Mr Deale said he “never knew the painting existed”.
The artist had painted the women – in 1920s Dublin – before taking the picture to London, where it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1928.
It was sold for £100 and bought by an English collector and had remained in England ever since.
But last month the oil on canvas, measuring 25in by 30in, was sent for auction to Whyte’s fine art auctioneers in Dublin.
Art experts were unable to identify the two women, and a catalogue note suggested they might be “a mother and daughter”. Whyte’s assigned it a pre-sale estimate of €25,000-€35,000.
After seeing the painting in the paper, Mr Deale went to see it on display at the RDS.
He was understandably anxious to buy the memento of his mother, who died in 1962, and was willing to pay “up to €25,000”. But his hopes were dashed at the auction last Monday night when bidding quickly rose – above the limit set by his bank – and the hammer fell at €42,000.
The winning bidder was an unnamed woman described by auctioneer Ian Whyte as “a private Dublin collector”.
Mr Deale said his mother was born Sarah Byrne in Kilternan, Co Dublin, in 1902 and went to the Dominican Convent in Eccles Street and, later, to school in Loreto College, St Stephen’s Green.
She was a student, and subsequently a teacher, at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art in the 1920s, where Seán Keating was her professor.
She was known as Sally and later married Kenneth Deale, a High Court judge. She continued to paint and draw all through her life.
Mr Deale, who was her only child, also identified the older woman in the painting as Ellie Duncan, who was the first curator of the Hugh Lane Gallery, and the first president of the United Arts Club in Dublin.