Final sales of the season leave auction buyers spoiled for choice

Signed copies of Joyce’s Ulysses and Wilde’s Poems, and works by Paul Henry to feature

This month marks the final sales of the season for some auction houses in what has been a bumper year.

Lots of Irish interest at Bonham's Fine Books, Manuscripts and Photography sale on June 24th include some written musings on the challenges faced by George Bernard Shaw regarding the constraints of living in Dublin and the pursuit of his literary ambitions, as part of the Bayne Collection (lot 62, €2,300-€4,600) and a signed presentation copy of James Joyce's Ulysses to HG Wells (€23,000-€35,000) along with Oscar Wilde's signed presentation copy of Poems to writer Alphonse Daudet. Interestingly, 13 years after this book was inscribed – on the evening that Wilde was found guilty of gross indecency (May 25th, 1895) – Daudet, at a dinner with Wilde's first biographer Robert Sherard, remarked that he was "pleased with the verdict" and was said to "display no sympathy for a fellow writer" (€21,000-€29,000).

Damian Matthews' bumper sale which runs from Saturday June 19th until Tuesday June 22nd includes the collection of artist Graham Ford, who Matthews describes as "an eccentric and voracious collector if ever there was one". Ford, who died in November 2020, was head designer at Navan Carpets for 30 years and went to art school with David Hockney, the British painter who holds the record for the most expensive work to be sold by a living artist.

While Ford painted, he never exhibited, and the sale has 280 of his works with low estimates from €30-€50. It appears he lived as a recluse, as Matthews says the former designer never admitted anyone to his residence Churchtown House, which recently sold for €2.5 million; according to Matthews, it took “three months and four skips to whittle it down to 2,500 lots”.


Slave traps

Of interest is Ford's Lego collection which has about 70 pieces, 300 books, 70 railway sets and curios such as slave traps. Two important portraits consigned privately to the sale are of Robert Rochfort with the Great Mace of the Irish House of Parliament (€30,000-€50,000) and a portrait of Lt Col Charles Kenneth Howard-Bury. If ever there lived an Irish eccentric, it surely was the Offaly man who spoke 27 languages, shot a tiger who had devoured 21 Indian holy men and kept a bear named Agu at his midlands estate, Belvedere House, for 20 years, while living with a former Shakespearean actor known as Sexy Rexy. A century ago this year, Howard-Bury was appointed to lead the first Mount Everest reconnaissance expedition, and while on that jaunt found footprints at high altitude. While he pronounced the tracks were probably caused by "a large grey wolf", his Sherpas had other ideas, and the phrase the Abominable Snowman came into existence for the very first time. The portrait, by Luma von Flesch-Brunningen, is listed at €20,000-€30,000.

Victor Mee’s two-day June Decorative Interiors sale on Tuesday June 29th and Wednesday June 30th include the contents of St Alban’s House in Co Longford and Laragh House in Dundalk, with over 1,200 lots to include art, garden and antique furniture and militaria. Highlights include a pair of 19th-century mahogany bookcases (lot 95, €1,000-€2,000) and lot 288, a rare 19th-century elm kitchen table on tapered legs (€600-€1,200).

Owl Run

Morgan O'Driscoll's last sale until August, which is currently open and ends Monday, June 28th has works by Donald Teskey, Daniel O'Neill, Tony O'Malley, Paul Henry, and a large painting from Hughie O'Donoghue from his Owl Run series. The canvas, measuring almost five by seven feet, depicts a place in Mayo where the artist spent much of his youth. And in those innocent years he misunderstood what locals referred to as the "aul' [old] run", hence the series devoted to a solitary nocturnal creature. Listed with a €25,000-€35,000 estimate, the painting – though slightly smaller – is somewhat similar in composition to the work from the same series and era which set a record for the artist in a Sotheby's sale in 2019, when it achieved €109,557 (including premium) against a reserve of €17,000-€28,200.

Hegarty's specialised art sale of 150 lots of Irish and international works, taking place on Sunday June 20th, features John Butler Yeats, Ivan Sutton, Frank Egginton, Con Campbell and Douglas Alexander. And if you missed Whyte's bumper summer sale last week, there are still some unsold lots available at good prices.

This coming Tuesday, June 22nd, will see John Weldon hold his largest sale this year with in excess of 500 lots. Highlights include a 3.11-carat diamond solitaire ring (€10,000-€15,000) which has a certificate from purchase valuing the piece at €35,750 from Rocks Jewellers; a 12-carat diamond necklace (€12,000-€15,000) and a yellow diamond on a pendant (€13,500-€15,500). Of interest is an 18-carat gold Ballon Bleu Cartier watch – boxed with papers – from January 2020. These timepieces normally retail at €12,300, which represents about double the lower estimate of €6,500.;;;;;;