Found in America, an Irish president's painting makes a premium price at home

The painting of a Celtic cross was among Irish art that sold in an online only auction


Morgan O’Driscoll ’s Irish and international art this week was a good litmus test for the online auction market in the current health crisis.

The results bring good news. More than 90 per cent of lots sold, with sales reaching close to €1m and Irish art fared particularly well.

All eyes were on lot 19, Celtic Cross in a West of Ireland Landscape, which was listed at €150,000-€250,000 and sold for €105,000.

The painting, which was used at one time for tourism advertising, had been discovered in December at an auction in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, where the work – which was previously owned by former president of Ireland Seán T O’Kelly – was listed as being of Lough Derg. It sold for $37,500, which would translate to about €55,000 after premium, insurance and VAT according to experts, giving a tidy return over the course of four months.

Other Irish artworks to fare well in the sale were Daniel O’Neill’s Choosing Flowers €24,000 (€15,000-€25,000) Evie Hone’s Crucifixion €6,400 (€3,000-€5,000) and Gerard Dillon’s Shawl €24,000 (€15,000-€25,000).

It appears that the appetite to own a work by Jack B Yeats is still strong, and bidders battled it out for a small watercolour The Start, which sold for €5,600, over five times its lower estimate of €1,000.

Three Jeff Koons balloon figures did not sell, having failed to make their reserves of €15,000 each, while works by Damien Hirst and Ivon Hitchens were also unsold.

Irish interest

Elsewhere in the auction market, this week’s sales include an interesting book sale by Purcell’s in Birr, O’Reilly’s fine jewellery sale and a Sotheby’s New York auction with items of Irish interest.

O’Reilly’s Fine Jewellery auction, which starts this Wednesday, April 22nd, and ends on Friday at lunchtime, has a diamond line necklace listed as the top lot in the online catalogue. The piece, with baguette-cut diamonds totalling 24 carats set in platinum, is seeking between €60,000 and €70,000.

Also listed are a number of pieces by the houses of Bulgari and Cartier, which have proved to be sought-after brands on the Irish auction circuit last year.

Lot 176 is a pair of Bulgari diamond earrings with a total diamond weight of six carats (€55,000-€60,000), while a fine ruby and diamond cross-over ring, galso by Bulgari, is estimated at €50,000-€55,000.

A Cartier diamond set bracelet with 4cts of diamonds is seeking €16,000-€18,000, and also of interest is lot 291: 100 cased sets of cufflinks depicting everything from pigs and elephants to Venetian masks (€500-€600).

The sale also features a selection of Hermes, Cartier and Gucci scarves along with some designer handbags. Do note that as this is a timed online-only auction, there is no facility for commission bids.

Sotheby’s Style Online: Silver, Furniture, Ceramics sale in New York, which is currently open and ends on Wednesday, April 22nd, has five lots of Irish interest.

Lot 220, a pair of Irish silver candlesticks by John Walker, Dublin, from 1752-1754 is seeking $3,000-$5,000, while lot 103, a large silver salver by Thomas Walker, Dublin 1747, is listed at $15,000-$20,000.

A pair of Irish William IV gilt wood caned armchairs, in the manner of James del Vecchio from 1835 (lot 141, $6,000-$10,000) features, along with an important George IV silver tray depicting the arms of the See of Tuam, Killala and Achonry (Lot 139, $12,000-$18,000).

Family album

Finally, Purcell’s of Birr, which is holding an online-only Irish interest book sale on April 22nd, has some interesting items to include: lot 403, which is a fine family album of Lord Fermoy that contains many scarce photographs of the Co Clare seaside town of Kilkee, and several press cuttings relating to the marriage of Lord Fermoy’s daughter, the Hon Sybil Roche, to Nigel Baring of the Barings Bank family. Diana, Princess of Wales’ mother Frances Shand Kydd was the youngest daughter of the 4th Baron of Fermoy (€400-€600).

The new catalogue by De Burca Rare Books is now online, and has a selection of rare books and manuscripts that could be of interest to readers. Lot 8 is a very good set of the rare and important work Senchus Mór – The Ancient Laws of Ireland, by Robert Atkinson et al, which have their origins in the Pre-Christian era (€1,500), and also listed are signed limited edition works by Samuel Beckett to include More Pricks than Kicks (lot 20), The Lost Ones (lot 21) and Come and Go (lot 19), which are all priced at €1,250.

During the current lockdown many charities are facing an uncertain future and de Vere’s of Kildare Street is in the process of organising a major online charity auction which will take place in June.

All funds raised will go to Irish charities including Focus Ireland, Alone and Pieta House. The auction house is seeking donations for the sale and will accept art, sculpture, designer furniture, fine wine “and even something to experience - like a holiday”.

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