Lavery, Yeats and le Brocquy beat estimates in first sales of the year

Irish banknotes also beat expectations in strong sale

Against a background of global uncertainty, results for the first quarter of 2022 were promising in the world of Irish fine art, antiques and collectables.

Most noteworthy perhaps, was the world record for Sir John Lavery, which was set in March when his painting, The Croquet Party, was sold through Christie's. This large scale musing on the evolution of social and sporting interaction sold for £2.922 million (€3.496 million), against a £1.2 million-£1.8 million reserve.

Earlier in the year, one of the most remarkable results was the €58,000 achieved for Dr Kathleen Lynn's 1916 Rising Service Medal, which sold in Mullen's Collector's Cabinet sale back in January. Lynn, the daughter of a Co Mayo Church of Ireland rector, became a suffragette and was one of only six women to be deported to British jails having been arrested during the Rising. Another strong result was €4,600 for a tiny, red, 1930s model Alfa Romeo P2 racing car. Also in January Blackrock auction house Adam's achieved €6,000 for a set of Malton prints and €3,600 for a Mappin & Webb dressing table. Two Percy French paintings, Sailing at Sunset and Returning Home, sold for €2,800 and €2,700, respectively.

February saw UK house Dix Noonan Webb achieve £183,656 (€219,742) for the John Geraghty Collection of Irish banknotes. The highest price achieved for the late Kildare native's collection was a very rare, near perfect, £100 Irish Free State note from 1928, which sold for £39,680 (€47,476) against a £12,000-£16,000 reserve. Two specimen Bank of Ireland Ploughman notes, £50 and £100, both dating from about 1929, each sold for £32,240 (€38,574). Neither of these notes had appeared at auction for decades and had been expected to fetch in the region of £5,000-£6,000.

In early March the auction house, which will change its name to Noonans at the end of this month, achieved £17,360 (€20,771) for an “intriguing and extremely rare” coin from 1927, in its Irish Coins, Tokens and Historical Medals sale. The bronze penny, which was designed by an Italian but never put into circulation, had been listed with a £4,000-£5,000 estimate. (Please note UK results are always inclusive of fees.)

Fresh to the market artworks fared well in de Vere’s first sale.

"With so many things going on in the world, it's great that the interest in Irish art is as strong as ever," says Rory Guthrie of the auction house.

Top lots in the sale, which achieved €350,000 in total, with 80 per cent of lots sold, included Louis le Brocquy, Study Towards an Image of James Joyce from 1981. It achieved more than double its lower estimate selling for €25,500 (€10,000-€15,000), as did Tony O'Malley's Homage to John McCormack at €12,500 (€6,000-€9,000).

Basil Blackshaw’s three Angels sold for €7,500, €6,500 and €8,000, against estimates of €3,000-€5,000 each.

Whyte’s first fine art sale this year saw 80 per cent of lots sold, for a total for the sale of in excess of €900,000. Three lots were sold to the Irish Government prior to the sale, while top lots included Paul Henry’s Lobster Fishermen off Achill, which achieved its lower estimate of €200,000, as did Sir John Lavery’s The Earl of Lonsdale, at €25,000.

Louis le Brocquy’s Adam sold for €34,000 (€30,000-€40,000), while Patrick Scott’s White and Orange Device from 1963 sold for double its lower estimate, achieving €16,000.

An indication that the appetite for all things Jack B Yeats is still strong was evident in the results. The Bather (William Butler Yeats), an ink and blue wash, was listed at €2,000-€3,000 but sold for €10,500, while his ink and wash Cupid Visits Ireland, He Gets Used to the Outside Cars, sold for €4,400, against a reserve of €1,500-€2,000.

Strong sales at Adam’s of St Stephen’s Green At Home sale included a pair of Louis XVI style ormolu and marquetry side tables, which sold for €3,800 (€800-€1,000). Equally surprising was the €3,600 achieved for an old Ziegler carpet from the late 19th or early 20th century, which had been listed at €800-€1,200. At its recent Important Irish Art sale, the auction house achieved €160,000 for its top lot: Roderic O’Conor’s Marine, au Clair de Lune (€150,000-€200,000). Competitive bidding on The Boat, by Jack B Yeats, saw the work sell for almost double its lower estimate when it achieved €150,000 (€80,000-€120,000). Other works that exceeded upper estimates were Wood Defile with Figure and Distant Cattle, by James Arthur O’Connor, which sold for €50,000 (€25,000-€35,000); Daniel O’Neill, Girl with a Flower at €38,000 (€20,000-€30,000) and Being (No 44) by Louis le Brocquy, which sold for €30,000 (€12,000-€16,000).

Fonsie Mealy reported strong results in its recent sale, with €56,000 achieved for Richard Brydges Beechey's Sybil Head, Near the Blaskets and Dingle, and €40,000 for Roderic O'Conor's Soleil en Forêt. These works had estimates of €30,000-€50,000 and €30,000-€40,000 respectively.

Other Irish works which sold internationally included two unframed Sean Scully watercolours, which achieved $23,940 (€21,824) in Sotheby's Contemporary Discoveries sale, and three Francis Bacon's lithographs, Second Version of the Triptych, 1944, which achieved £50,400 (€60,303), also through Sotheby's.

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