Long ago view of Carton House among top London sales
Records smashed in salerooms last week show Old Masters are never out of fashion
Arthur Devis Preston, portrait of James and Emily Fitzgerald, Count and Countess of Kildare, sold at Bonham’s for €262,000
It’s an exciting business, designing a new house and garden - even if you happen to be an Earl and Countess, and the new house in question is one of the grandest of them all.
Everyone who has ever struggled to decide on the shape of a lawn, or the placement of a tree, will relate to Arthur Devis Preston’s delightful portrait of James FitzGerald and his wife in the grounds of their new and very grand country home, Carton House. It’s one of five paintings from the collection of the Dukes of Leinster which sold for a combined total of more than €500,000 at Bonham’s Old Master Paintings sale in London last week.
The painting shows Emily Lennox, Countess of Kildare, mulling over plans for a new bridge. Something of a design guru, it was she who created the Chinese Room at Carton - and turned the grounds into a model for estate gardens all over Ireland, incorporating a lake, an island, a kitchen garden and the famous Shell Cottage before she was happy with the project. Her husband, for his part, has the look of a man whose carriage is going to be stuck at a stop-go system along the driveway for the foreseeable future.
The painting more than doubled its pre-sale top estimate of €100,000 and sold for €262,000 - not so surprising, perhaps, given that it boasts a provenance as aristocratic as the Fitzgeralds themselves. The Countess, who later became the Duchess of Leinster, bequeathed it to her sister Caroline, Lady Holland. In 1845 it was inherited by William, the third Duke of Leinster, “and thence by family descent to the present owner”.
The other Leinster paintings in the sale were a portrait of the Countess of Kildare by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which sold for €92,215 (€68,000-€91,000); Hugh Douglas Hamilton’s portrait of the wife of the second Duke, Emilia Olivia, which made €50,000 (€46,000-€68,000); and two views of Maynooth Castle by William Ashford, which sold for €106,000 (€91,000-€140,000).
“These five beautiful and important pictures from the collection of the Duke of Leinster created quite the buzz when Bonhams announced their inclusion in the Old Master sale,” said Bonham’s representative in Ireland, Kieran O’Boyle. “That interest translated into spirited competition among bidders on the telephone and in the room, seeing all five sold, with the wonderful double portrait by Arthur Devis selling for twice its lower estimate.”
Meanwhile, with a number of records smashed around the London salerooms last week, it seems that Old Masters are never out of fashion.
The top lot at Christie’s Old Masters sale was Ludovico Carracci’s Portrait of Carlo Alberto Rati Opizzoni in Armour, which sold for €5,730,513, while The Holy Family by the 16th-century Dutch painter Gerard David made €4,846, 250, well above its estimate of €1.695 million to €2.825 million and a world record for the artist.
At Sotheby’s, meanwhile, a portrait by Peter Paul Rubens made €6.12 million (€3.35 million -€4.5 million) - a landmark price for a single portrait by the artist, Sotheby’s say - while a very unusual portrait of a man against a green background, attributed to Albrecht Dürer and “probably from the second part of the 1490s”, soared to €1,299,730, the highest price ever paid at auction for a work attributed to Dürer. It had a pre-sale estimate of €340,000-€565,000.
A new auction record was also established for the neo-classical sculptor Antonio Canova, whose 1814 Bust of Peace sold for nearly €6 million at Sotheby’s after a telephone bidding battle. The guide price was €1.13 million - €1.695 million.