Scotland Yard and Interpol assist search for stolen paintings


Scotland Yard and Interpol are helping the gardaí in an investigation into the theft of three State-owned paintings that were auctioned in London and Dublin.

It has emerged that a third valuable painting, sold at Sothebys in October 2010, was part of a collection from Killarney House which was removed from private storage in Co Kildare.


It was revealed two weeks ago that two of the paintings from the collection had gone missing. But it has now emerged that at least one more painting was also stolen. The Department of Arts and Heritage is conducting an inventory to establish the scale of the theft.

Auctioneers Bonhams and Sotheby’s in London and Adam’s in Dublin yesterday confirmed they are assisting a police inquiry into the affair.

The paintings were among the contents of Killarney House, ancestral home of the earls of Kenmare, which had been bought by John McShain, a wealthy Irish-American building contractor. The house was donated to the State by his family after his death in 1998 and the contents were put into storage pending restoration work on the house, which is due to be opened to the public next year.

However, three paintings, apparently stolen from the storage depot in Co Kildare, were sold at two auctions in London during 2010 and 2011. Two of the paintings reappeared on the Irish art market last year.

In October 2010, Sotheby’s in London sold A Grey Hunter held by a Groom with a Hound in Landscape, by 18th century English equestrian artist James Seymour, for £52,850 (€62,000) to an unnamed buyer. The provenance of the oil-on-canvas was catalogued simply as “property from a private collection” and the estimate was £20,000-£30,000.

Spotted by art dealer

In November 2011, two paintings – offered as one lot – depicting the earl and countess of Kenmare appeared at auction at Bonhams in Knightsbridge, London, in a sale titled “British and Continental Pictures”.

The artist was not identified and the paintings were described as “English School, circa 1810”. The paintings, estimated at £700-£900, were spotted by an Irish art dealer who flew to London to inspect them. He later bid for the pair at auction and bought them for the bargain sum of £4,250.

He subsequently consigned them to Adam’s in Dublin who identified the artist as Irish painter Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1740-1808) and offered them at auction in September 2012, also as a pair, with an estimate of €20,000-30,000.

However, the portraits were withdrawn from auction when Adam’s was informed that they had, apparently, been stolen.