Hennessy works in Mealy's sale


Paintings by Patrick Hennessy from the collection of a Limerick aristocrat go on sale next month, writes MICHAEL PARSONS

PAINTINGS by Patrick Hennessy from a private collection in Co Limerick will be offered for sale by Mealy’s next month. The collection was owned by the late Lady Ursula Vernon, a society figure and patron of the arts, who lived at Bruree House, Co Limerick and Fairyfield, a seaside home at Kinsale, Co Cork.

She died in 1978 and left the paintings to a family friend who has now consigned them to sale.

Lady Ursula was a daughter of Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster and one of the richest men in England.

The Duke, a Tory, once “outed” as homosexual his brother-in-law, Liberal politician William Lygon, to King George V who reportedly harrumphed: “I thought men like that shot themselves”.

He once (unsuccessfully) courted Coco Chanel and married four times. His last wife, Anne owned the champion racehorse, Arkle.

His daughter Ursula married a famous amateur jockey, William Patrick Filmer-Sankey, but they divorced in 1940. She remarried Major Stephen Vernon, who ran a stud farm and bred horses for the duke at Bruree.

Lady Ursula may have inherited her father’s love of the equine world – but not his prejudices – and was not afraid to frighten the horses. She befriended the Cork-born artist Patrick Hennessy – and his Scottish-born partner, fellow-painter Harry Robertson Craig; gave him numerous commissions; and attended his exhibitions in Dublin.

The paintings, which once hung in Bruree House, have not been seen in public before. Among them is a pair of miniature portraits by

Hennessy and Craig – of each other – which were given to Lady Ursula and Major Vernon “with love” as a Christmas gift in 1960. The pair is estimated at €1,250-€1,750.

Dublin art historian and collector Kevin Rutledge, the leading authority on the artist, said Hennessy was an important Irish painter who had been “under-recognised for years because of his sexuality”.

He was renowned as a painter of portraits, animals and still-lifes.

Also included in the sale are two of his watercolours: one of the steps at Bruree House, the other of “Ursie’s” dachshunds, Elsa, Feathers, Pearl and Lexel. (The gentry do give their dogs such classy names.)

A large oil-on-canvas, Horses Grazing at James’s Fort, Kinsale, Co Cork, is estimated at €9,000-€12,000.

The pictures can be viewed at Mealy’s in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.

The auction will take place at the Hibernian Hotel, Mallow, Co Cork on Tuesday, April 5th.