How do I love thee? With precious pieces that will long outlast the roses

Specimen table from home of Ada King or unique sculpture of a socially-distant hug

With lockdown curtailing normal shopping activity, members of the Irish Antiques Dealers' Association have curated a selection of unusual pieces that might appeal to romantics on the hunt for tokens of love for Valentine's Day. Along with some lovely jewellery from JW Weldon, there are interior pieces, one of which has an interesting history.

Provenance can sometimes be more important than a piece itself and at O'Sullivan Antiques on Francis Street in Dublin, Emma Culleton has a specimen table featuring marble insets. While the piece is interesting in its own right, the table, seeking €45,000, has links to Ada King of Torridon House in Scotland, who was the only child of Lord Byron born in wedlock.

Though King married and became Countess of Lovelace, there was, ironically, little love over the course of her life. Her father – one of the greatest English poets – left his wife, Lady Byron, a month after King was born to pursue notorious sexual gallivanting around Europe, never to see his daughter again.

It appears that maternal love was not destined for King either, as her mother often referred to her as “it” and she was left in the care of her grandmother.


King also had numerous extramarital affairs and was said to have had a gambling problem, losing £3,000 on the horses in the 1840s. But what she lacked in love, she compensated for intellectually.

At the age of 17, her mathematical abilities began to emerge and she became one of the world's first computing programmers alongside Charles Babbage, the English polymath who originated the concept of a digital, programmable computer.

Her husband also abandoned her and she died at the age of 36 from complications of bloodletting as treatment for uterine cancer. King is fondly remembered as the Enchantress of Numbers and was buried – at her request – beside her father, Lord Byron.

Art deco

Other items with a nod to romance include Niall Mullen's art deco bronze of a woman blowing a kiss, along with Eleanor Swan's boxed floral bouquets from Gallery Zozimus that will long outlive a bunch of flowers.

For works of art, the Solomon Fine Art gallery is hosting an online group exhibition that runs until March 15th, featuring artists David King, Margo Banks, Eilis O'Connell and James Hanley. Pieces that will catch Cupid's eye include Stars in their Eyes and To the Moon and Back, both by Stephanie Hess, which depict bronze rabbits embracing.

But if there is one piece that really captures the mood of the time, it is Air Hug II – also by Hess – where rabbits again feature, but in a socially-distant way. It .

A lovely new work is Mademoiselle Aubergine by Orla de Brí, with one of her signature svelte, female aliens rising from a skirt in the shape of an aubergine.

The gallery has introduced a view-on-a-wall tool, which allows a better sense of scale for sculptural works from multiple angles.

Other galleries, such as Olivier Cornet, have also introduced three-dimensional viewings for those missing in-person shows. Cornet is running Kelly Ratchford's Fragility as part of a group show focusing on endurance, fragility and resilience that was co-curated with art consultant Jackie Ryan.

Gormley''s Fine Art has an interesting exhibition called Kintsugi or Golden Repair, which features a selection of works by renowned Irish sculptor Patrick O'Reilly. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of putting broken pieces back together by mending breakages with precious metals, which we all could do with after the fragility of three lockdowns.

Featured with his signature dolls, rocking horses and alabaster pillars are two broken hearts, with the underlying theme that we need to embrace flaws and imperfections.


For lovers of literature one of the more obvious choices would be Gabriel García Márquez's 1985 classic Love in the Time of Cholera – sales of which soared in 2020.De Búrca Rare Books has some wonderful choices. Alongside Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and works by Seamus Heaney, James Joyce and WB Yeats is Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, the work of the 11th century Persian astronomer poet translated by Edward FitzGerald.

Finely bound by George Bayntun of Bath, the original manuscripts for FitzGerald's work are in the vaults of the Bodleian Library at Oxford. There is also a copy lying at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean at a depth of 12,500ft. The jewel-encrusted copy was purchased at a Sotheby's sale in London in 1912 for £405 (about €46,000 today) by Gabriel Wells, who at the time was one of the most important booksellers in the United States.

It had more than 1,000 jewels and was considered to have been the most expensive binding produced in the 20th century. Wells gave the book to a passenger on the Titanic where its fate was forever consigned to history.