Stolen paintings found in Wicklow ditch to be auctioned in London

Lavery, Henry and Yeats pictures found in ditch go under the hammer

Three stolen Irish paintings found in a bin bag dumped in a ditch in Co Wicklow last summer are to be auctioned in London this autumn.

Sotheby's said the paintings by Sir John Lavery, Jack B Yeats and Paul Henry had been consigned to auction by insurance company Chubb. The paintings were stolen from the house of a private art collector in Donard, Co Wicklow in 2014. The theft only came to public attention a year later when the paintings were found, by chance, by a man cutting furze bushes in a field nearby.

The discovery was made by Denis Russell, a native of Donard who lived in London but was home on holidays.

He told The Irish Times that he had been “strimming furze bushes” in a field beside his house when he “saw a black bag stuck in the middle of a ditch”. He opened the bag and found three framed paintings and “recognised a Paul Henry, a Yeats and a Lavery”. He contacted the Garda who recovered the paintings.


The paintings were confirmed as Landscape with Cottage, by Paul Henry; Portrait de femme au chapeau [Portrait of a woman wearing a hat], by Sir John Lavery; and The Fern in the Area by Jack B Yeats.

The owner of the paintings, who has not been named, had already made an insurance claim which had been settled by Chubb and so, the insurance company became the owner of the paintings. The company has now decided to sell the three pictures at auction in London where Sotheby’s has assigned them a combined top estimate of £70,000 (€91,000). It is understood that the original owner was offered first refusal but declined to buy back the paintings.

New homes

Charlie Minter

, Sotheby’s Irish Art Specialist, said: “The remarkable recovery of these paintings has ensured that their fate looks immeasurably brighter and we look forward to finding new homes for them”.

Mr Minter said that two of the paintings, Landscape with Cottage by Paul Henry and Portrait de femme au chapeau [Portrait of woman wearing a hat] by Sir John Lavery, had previously been sold at auction by Sotheby’s in 2001 to the unnamed Irish buyer and that Sotheby’s was “thrilled to be able to offer them at auction again”.

In 2001, Landscape with Cottage sold for £25,800 (€33,548). The estimate now is £20,000-£30,000 (€26,000- €39,000); Portrait de femme au chapeau sold for £11,400 (€14,821)and the estimate now is £7,000-£10,000 (€9,101- €13,000)

The third painting, The Fern in the Area by Jack B Yeats, was sold in Dublin, also in 2001, in an art auction hosted jointly by Adam’s and Bonhams. It made IR£30,000. The estimate now is £20,000-£30,000 (€26,000- €39,000).

All three will go under the hammer in Sotheby’s Irish Art sale in London in September.

Sotheby’s Dublin office, in Molesworth Street, said other vendors wishing to consign art to the sale could do so until the closing date of July 7th.