Paddy Kelly collection nets €3.8m at Sotheby’s London sale

William Scott painting sells for €943k at late housebuilder’s Irish art and furniture auction

A work by the artist William Scott was the headline sale at a Sotheby's London auction this week when Deep Blues – part of the collection of Irish art and furniture from the estate of the late housebuilder Patrick Kelly – sold for £837,800 (€943,124) making it the second highest price paid for a Scott at auction.

The sale on Tuesday, which was deferred from March due to Covid-19 restrictions, achieved more than £3.36 million (€3.8 million) against a reserve of £2.05 million (€3.16 million). Comprising much of the contents of Kelly’s Georgian Fitzwilliam Square home, 80 per cent of the lots were sold.

Bidding for the Scott opened at £300,000 (reserve had been set between £300,00 and £500,000) and in less than two minutes jumped to £600,000 to a new bidder, eventually seeing the hammer drop at £680,000 ((the final £837,800 figure reflects UK auction house practice of  including  their sales premium in final prices achieved).

In addition to Scott, two auction records were set when Still Life with Oysters by Patrick Hickey achieved £15,121 and View to Killarney by William Ashford sold for £252,000.


Paul Henry and Jack B Yeats also fared well, with Henry's Achill Sound achieving £214,000 against a reserve of £70,000-£100,000 and the combined total for the five Yeats achieved £768,600.

"What was surprising was the number of new collectors who bought at the sale, and we had bidders from 14 countries registered," said Arabella Bishop of Sotheby's who handled the sale. "Provenance is everything with a collection like this, and despite Covid-19, I think the reasoning to postpone it from March was the right one as there was so much uncertainty."


The big surprise on the day – and no doubt it would have generated gasps in the saleroom had it not been empty – were the results for mirrors.

An Irish George II oval mirror sold for £25,200 against its more modest listing at £3,000-£5,000, followed by a pair of George III giltwood pieces that achieved £44,000 (£20,000-£30,000). But a pair of Irish blue and clear glass bordered oval mirrors – which had oxidation on the glass due to their age – believed to date from the late 18th to early 19th century, sold for £56,700 against their reserve of £6,000-£8,000.

Paddy Kelly's favourite painting was Harry Kernoff's O'Mahonie's Point, Killarney which had an estimate of £10,000-£12,000. It failed to sell – despite three further Kernoff's being sold, and so returns to the family to remain part of the Paddy Kelly legacy.

Kelly began collecting art, furniture and antiques in the 1980s: “It was such a well curated collection over many decades, and Paddy searched out the best art and antiques which is reflected in the sales results,” Bishop said.

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables