There was a record for a work by Sean Keating at Mealy’s today. His c1946 Portrait of an Aran Woman and Her Children has just sold for a hammer price of 130,000 at Mealy’s sale in Castlecomer. This large scale work – 49″ x 58″ – has not been seen in public since the 1940’s and was not on the open market before. According to the art historian Dr. Eimear O’Connor this is no ordinary Aran scene. The models are Sean Keating’s wife, May (née Walshe) (1895-1965), and the couple’s two sons, Justin (1930-2009) in the centre, and Michael (1927-2001), who all sat for him at various intervals throughout 1944. The cat, whose name is now lost to time, was a family pet. Keating’s plan was to exhibit the painting with the RHA, the Oireachtas, or with Victor Waddington that year. However, in spite of his good intentions, he put the canvas to one side and did not get back to complete it until 1946.
Their eldest son, Michael, pictured in a youthful day dream, was to become a highly respected civil and mechanical engineer, while Justin, also deep in thought, qualified as a vet, and went on to become a politician of note. The work had been estimated at 40,000-50,000. The top price for a Keating was 190,000 and there has not been a six figure sum paid for a Keating since 2008.
(See post on antiquesandartireland.com for December 1, 2016)