Le Brocquy tapestries may make less than half 2001 price


A WEEK after his death, it has emerged that some of artist Louis le Brocquy’s most significant work is to be sold at auction this month.

A full set of his 20 Tapestries Illustrating The Táin is expected to make more than €250,000 at a Whyte’s art auction in Dublin.

The tapestries feature images of drawings made by le Brocquy for poet Thomas Kinsella’s translation of Ireland’s oldest epic saga, An Táin Bó Cúailgne (The Cattle Raid of Cooley). The illustrated book, The Táin, was first published in 1969 by Dolmen.

Le Brocquy’s black-and-white brush drawings for the project – regarded as among the most influential images in modern Irish art – featured characters and scenes from Irish mythology, including Cúchulainn hurling and the massed armies of Connacht and Ulster preparing to go to war.

In the 1990s, le Brocquy created a set of 20 tapestries based on selected images from The Táin. The black-and-white tapestries were made by René Duché, a master weaver in Aubusson, in a limited edition of nine sets.

One complete set is in the collection of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, donated by a Dublin businessman, Brian Timmons.

Set No 4, to be sold in the Dublin auction, is possibly the only full set still in private hands. The whereabouts of the others are unknown.

The set is being sold by the family of a deceased Northern Ireland collector, who bought it from London art dealers Agnew’s in 2001. Auctioneer Ian Whyte said the retail price in London at the time “amounted to over £700,000”.

The estimate for the Dublin auction is €250,000-€300,000, a huge price drop. Prices for modern Irish art have fallen dramatically since the economic crisis began in 2008.

Mr Whyte said the tapestries – along with other works by le Brocquy in the auction – had been “consigned long before the artist’s death”. Any prospective private buyer would need to have a very large house, as 19 of the tapestries each measure 5ft by 6ft and one measures 6ft by 9ft. They will be offered as one lot, but the auctioneers might have to sell them one by one. The auction will take place in the RDS on Monday, May 21st.