Significant collection of Victorian Irish art ‘rediscovered’

Sotheby’s to auction collection of paintings from the estate of Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe, who died aged 99, last year

 

A collection of Victorian paintings by leading Irish artists has been “re-discovered” and will go under the hammer at a Sotheby’s auction in London on Wednesday.

The paintings are from the estate of Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe, who died – aged 99, last year – which she had inherited from her father, the 1st Marquess of Crewe. He had served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (the monarch’s representative during British rule) and had collected the paintings during his term of office (1892-1895). He brought the collection back to England and the paintings have not been seen in public since.

Sotheby’s described the paintings – by Walter Frederick Osborne, Rose Barton, Mildred Anne Butler and William Percy French – as “significant rediscoveries . . . out of public view for over a century”.

Among the highlights is Guards Parade, Dublin Castle (pictured) a watercolour by Rose Barton, estimated at £6,000- £8,000 (€8,400-€11,200), that depicts soldiers in the courtyard of the castle – headquarters of the British administration in Ireland. Barton was a Tipperary-born painter who enjoyed success in Dublin and London in the late 19th and early 20th century. The sale features two further watercolours by her: Spring (£8,000-£12,000; and Street Scene (£2,000-£3,000).

Oil paintings include Walter Frederick Osborne’s : Fish Market, Galway (estimate £20,000- £30,000) and Return From Galway Market (£15,000- £20,000) – both dating from circa 1893 – and “belong to an important but often overlooked part of Osborne’s career when he visited Galway and Connemara, capturing life in the West of Ireland”. There are two further lots by Osborne, a watercolour, A Backstreet in the Snow (£7,000- £10,000, €9.8k-€14k) and, a drawing, A Street in Antwerp (£1,500-£2,000).

A watercolour by the Kilkenny painter Mildred Anne Butler, The Ploughman is estimated at £1,000-£1,500 and one by Roscommon’s William Percy French, On The French Park Estate (£1,000-£1,500).

Sotheby’s said: “When the Duchess of Roxburghe passed away in 2014, her heir – much to his surprise – was her nephew Bamber Gascoigne” – the British broadcaster best known as the original quizmaster on BBC television’s University Challenge . He intends to “secure the future” of the house (West Horsley Place in Surrey) “using funds raised from Sotheby’s sale of the contents to do so”.

The Duchess was a well-known figure in pre-second World War London society. A god-daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, at the age of 19 she married the Duke of Roxburghe and, said Sotheby’s, “the fairytale wedding of 1935 at Westminster Abbey was such a significant social occasion that it was screened in cinemas nationwide”. Their wedding presents included a pair of Irish silver cream jugs from the US ambassador and Mrs Bingham – also in the auction, estimate £400-£600.

The couple divorced in 1953 when “the Duke had the butler deliver her divorce papers to her on a silver salver while they were at breakfast”.

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