Kavanagh death mask and miniature Ming bowl to headline upcoming sales

Poet Patrick Kavanagh's death mask and portrait of campaigner Vicky Phelan are among auction highlights

Diamonds, dragons and a death mask feature in some of this week’s auction highlights. All sales are live, but in accordance with current Government Covid-19 guidelines, bidding is online-only.

In the forthcoming Sheppard's Belmont House sale, all eyes will be on lot 975: a tiny bowl measuring just over the height of a matchbox. Described as "extremely rare", the Ming blue and white receptacle dates from 1465-1487 and features four striding kui dragons in mutual pursuit. The small bowl bears the Chenghua six-character mark in a double square, and is expected to fetch in the region of €20,000-€30,000.

Also among the 1,300 lots is a painting of Irish woman Vicky Phelan, the cervical cancer campaigner who is currently undergoing treatment in the US. The oversized triptych, which featured on the Late Late Show in early January, was donated by Tullamore artist Vincent Devine to raise funds for Heroes Aid, the charity that provides PPE to frontline workers.

The three-day sale takes place from Wednesday to Friday, February 3rd-5th. sheppards.ie

Death masks

On Sunday, January 31st, Bandon-based Hegarty's January sale, includes the Mount Lodge collection, Enniskeane and items from the Barbara Vance collection. An interesting lot is one of three known death masks of poet Patrick Kavanagh by Cork artist Séamus Murphy (€6,000-€9,000). Murphy, a contemporary of Kavanagh – who first met the poet in 1943 – took the mould for the mask on December 1st, 1967, shortly after the writer's death.

The rare and evocative piece comes to the market at a time when the power of poetry is arguably more relevant than ever. Only two other plaster examples of this death mask have been recorded in public collections; one in the Dublin Writers Museum and the second at the Patrick Kavanagh Centre in Monaghan.

Along with the mask is a collection of personal correspondence between the artist's wife, Maighread, and the previous owner, Barbara Vance. The wife of Douglas Vance who was the general manager of the Metropole Hotel, 1944-1985, Barbara was well known in Cork having accumulated a large and varied collection of art and antiques over her lifetime.

Murphy was one of Cork's most prominent stone carvers and sculptors and is best known for his ecclesiastical statues and portrait heads. His most notable works are St Brigid and the 12 apostles in San Francisco, and the United Nations Memorial in Glasnevin Cemetery. Though he rarely exhibited, he was elected a full member of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in 1954 and only created three death masks over his lifetime. Along with Kavanagh, he also moulded composer Arnold Bax in 1957 and musician Séamus Ennis in 1971 (€6,000- €9,000).

In the jewellery section, lot 2 is a stunning 18ct white gold Ceylon sapphire and diamond cluster ring with tapered baguette cut diamonds. The sapphire itself weighs over 6 carats and bears a resemblance to one of the most famous sapphire rings of all time: Princess Diana’s engagement ring.

Diana’s ring - which is now worn by the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, is twice the size weighing 12 carats. It was purchased in 1981 for £28,000, but is now estimated to have a value of £300,000 and was the most sought after setting for an engagement ring for an entire decade.

When Prince William and Kate announced their engagement in 2010, sales of sapphire engagement rings went through the roof again, with jewellers all over the world frantically buying hoards of the blue gems to satisfy the public’s demand.

The estimate for the ring, which is a natural sapphire, in Hegarty’s sale is €12,000-€14,000.

Lot 40, is a smaller but equally beautiful old yellow sapphire framed by round and baguette-cut diamonds. With the centre stone weighing almost 3 carats, these sapphires – also known as Pukhraj stones - are said to have beneficial qualities, one of which besides warding off evil spirits and improving liver function is said to strengthen the immune system, so could well be the gem for 2021 (€4,000-€8,ooo).
hegartyantiques.com

Gems

Also on Sunday, Kells auctioneer Damien Matthews will conduct an interesting auction of more than 700 lots of jewellery and other collectables. Gathered from various clients, the sale includes the dispersal of a private collection of jewellery, and a single owner collection of 28 pure gold coins. One of the nicest lots is a superb pair of tanzanite and diamond drop earrings (€8,000-€12,000). matthewauctioneers.com 

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