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  • Archive for February, 2020


    Friday, February 28th, 2020

    Murillo: The Prodigal Son Restored which opens at the National Gallery of Ireland on February 29, follows a long conservation project. It is 30 years since Murillo’s series of paintings based on the parable of the Prodigal Son has been on display here.

    The Prodigal Son cycle by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo explores sin, repentance and forgiveness across six paintings, staged in seventeenth-century Seville. It is the only intact narrative cycle by Murillo in the world. Donated by the Beit family in 1987, the works have been conserved at the Gallery’s Paintings Conservation Studio in a project led by Muirne Lydon, who remarked: “The conclusions of technical research performed on the paintings during conservation will be highlighted in the exhibition, revealing how the series was created – from canvas to ground layers and pigments – and the transformations that they have gone through over time. This new research adds to the growing body of knowledge of Murillo’s painting technique and materials. By situating the paintings both culturally and technically, the exhibition hopes to demonstrate that it is crucial to understand these masterpieces beyond their surface, thereby allowing our visitors to fully appreciate this exceptionally rich series.”

    Sean Rainbird, Gallery Director said: Murillo’s Prodigal Son cycle is one of the treasures of the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland. We are delighted that this exceptional group of paintings, now gloriously conserved for future generations, will be on view at the Gallery this Spring.” The exhibition continues until August 30.

    Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682)
    The Departure of the Prodigal Son, 1660s Photo © National Gallery of Ireland


    Thursday, February 27th, 2020

    This 1912 group portrait of on deck of the Terra Nova with Irish Antarctic explorer Tom Crean, Lieutenant E.R.G.R. “Teddy” Evans and William Lashly, made £5,300 over a top estimate of £800 at Bonhams Travel and Exploration sale in London. The three had formed the last of the supporting teams to be sent back by Scott, as he commenced the final push for the South Pole. During the return journey Evans went down with scurvy, and tried to persuade Crean and Lashly to leave him behind. Instead they strapped him to a sledge and man-hauled him to within four or five days’ march of Hut Point. From there Crean set out to collect help, while Lashly stayed to look after Evans. Evans’ saviours were both awarded the Albert Medal.

    Tom Crean (1877-1938) was a member of three Antarctic expeditions. He joined Robert Scott’s Discovery Expedition of 1901-04. After Terra Nova his third and final expedition was as second officer on Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans Antarctic Expedition. After the ship  Endurance became beset in the pack ice and sank, Crean and the ship’s company spent 492 days drifting on the ice before a journey in boats to Elephant Island. He was a member of the crew which made a small boat journey of 800 nautical miles from Elephant Island to South Georgia to seek aid.

    (See post on for February 19, 2020)


    Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

    The Small Army Gold Medal for Orthes 1814 awarded to Major the Hon. Edward Mullens, 28th Foot comes up at Dix Noonan Webb in London on March 5. Mullens was the fifth son of Sir Thomas Mullens, 1st Baron Ventry. Frederick William Mullens (d. 1712), an English Colonel who claimed descent from the Norman de Moleyns, established this branch of the family in Co. Kerry, settling at Burnham House near Dingle around 1666. His great-grandson, Sir Thomas Mullens (1736-1824), one of three major electoral patrons in Kerry, was created Baron Ventry in the Irish peerage on July 31, 1800, as a reward for his family’s support for the Union with Britain and the abolition of the Irish Parliament.

    In the Napoleonic Wars Edward Mullens fought in fifteen battles in the Peninsula between 1809 and 1814, commanded a Light Battalion at Orthes, and was one of the heroes of the Battle of Barossa. At the battle of Orthes on February 27, 1814, Mullens commanded a brigaded battalion made up of all the Light Companies of Colonel O’Callaghan’s Brigade, those of the 28th, 34th, and 39th Foot, plus a Company of 5th Battalion 60th Rifles. His mission, successfully accomplished, was to seize and hold the ford over the Gave de Pau river at Souars.

    His Field Officer’s Gold Medal is fitted with three-pronged gold ribbon bar together with a fine colour portrait miniature of the recipient on ivory, in a silver-gilt and gilt metal glazed oval frame, the reverse engraved ‘Major The Honble Edward Mullens. 28th Regt.’  It is estimated at £18,000-22,000.


    Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

    AN online sale of Irish art by Morgan O’Driscoll runs to Monday March 2. There is paintings and sculpture from artists like John Behan, John Shinnors, George Campbell, Elizabeth le Jeune, Patrick O’Reilly, James Humbert Craig, Mark O’Neill, George Campbell and many more. The catalogue is online.

    John Behan – Westport Famine Ship (2018) 5,000-7,000


    Monday, February 24th, 2020

    The Bitch Pack of the Meath Foxhounds by the Victorian painter John Emms (1843-1912) is a highlight at Bonhams sale of 19th Century and British Impressionist Art sale in London on April 8. Hunting with hounds is a tradition in Ireland that goes back to ancient times and features strongly in Celtic literature and legend. There is a pack recorded in the Meath area as early as 1723, although the Meath Hunt itself dates from 1817. The Bitch Pack of the Meath Foxhounds was painted in 1896 when John Watson was Master. It is estimated at £180,000-250,000.

    Bonhams Head of Victorian Paintings, Charles O’Brien explains: “Emms had the rare ability to give real life to his subject and was at his very best when painting dogs. In this unusually large work – it’s 40 x 60 inches – his confident use of fluid brush strokes gives weight and solidity to the different physical characteristics of the dogs as well as their individual temperaments.”

    The Bitch Pack of the Meath Foxhounds by John Emms


    Sunday, February 23rd, 2020

    Few artists spent as much time in the studio as Lucian Freud (1922-2011), regarded as one of the greatest realist painters of the 20th century.  He changed the way we see portraiture and the nude.  In its latest incarnation the Freud Project at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) has set out on an investigation into the relationship between the artist and their studio and the role of the studio  as a space for production. In all its forms the studio exerts a fascination as the physical and conceptual frame as an artist’s work progresses. The exhibition of 29 paintings and 16 works on paper is made possible by the IMMA Collection: Freud Project, a five year loan of 52 works by Lucian Freud to IMMA.  The programme of research will build  on existing ways of thinking about the studio and focus on the contemporary situation in Ireland. This is the fifth exhibition to be presented as part of the project and it will run until August 30.

    Lucian Freud standing on his head with his daughter Bella in his studio c1986 © Estate of Bruce Bernard, courtesy of Virginia Verran.


    Friday, February 21st, 2020

    A total of 530 lots of silver, furniture, jewellery, porcelain and collectibles will come under the hammer at the At Home sale at James Adam in Dublin on February 23. There are silver brooches by Georg Jensen, some Irish provincial silver, artworks including some Art Deco chrome plated figures, mirrors, antique furniture including sets of chairs, Oriental bronzes and Donegal carpets. The catalogue is online.

    A large Donegal wool carpet in the Neo-classical taste. UPDATE: THIS MADE 2,700 AT HAMMER


    Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

    Rusty Gates, a 1948 oil by Jack B. Yeats, is the main lot at Whyte’s sale of Irish and International art in Dublin on March 9. The sale includes work by Paul Henry, William Conor, Beatrice Glenavy, William Sadler, Nathaniel Hone The Elder, Louis le Brocquy, Tony O’Malley, Donald Teskey and many other Irish artists. Around 200 lots will come under the hammer in an auction expected to realise about 1.2 million. The Yeats carries an estimate of 100,000-150,000. The catalogue is online.

    Jack B. YeatsRUSTY GATES, 1948


    Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

    Rare images from Sir Ernest Shackleton’s doomed Antartic Expedition come up at Bonhams Travel and Exploration sale in London on February 26. The Antarctic explorer, born in Kilkea Co. Kildare, led three British expeditions to the Antarctic. His Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1917 is remembered for one of the great feats of human daring and valour. Attempting to sail across the Weddell Sea, the expedition ship Endurance became trapped in pack ice, eventually disintegrating in October 1915. The dramatic escape of the crew is the stuff of legend. The expedition’s official photographer, Australian Frank Hurley, captured life on board the stricken vessel and the ship’s final hours.  A newly discovered presentation album of Hurley’s Photographs of Scenes and Incidents in Connection with the Happenings to the Weddell Sea Party  consigned by a private owner in the UK is estimated at £30,000-40,000.

    Frank Hurley joined the Shackleton expedition as the official photographer in 1914, having gained experience with Douglas Mawson’s 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition. The decision to abandon Endurance presented Hurley with an unenviable task. With a long march ahead into an uncertain future, weight was at a premium and he was forced to destroy 400 plates to lessen the load.

    Bonhams Head of Books, Manuscripts and Photographs, Matthew Haley said: “The fate of Endurance and the crew’s astonishing and tortuous journey back against all the odds is rightly seen as a testament to the human spirit under extreme pressure.  Hurley’s images convey the terrible situation in which the men found themselves, and have come to define  the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration as it drew to a close.” 


    Frank Hurley – Endurance in her death throes


    Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

    A newly discovered letter from Constance Markievicz is one of the highlights of Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts sale in London on March 11. It is in reply to Eva Cumming, a hitherto unknown cousin in Australia, who had written to introduce herself after seeing Markievicz’s name in the Australian press.  Although Cumming’s letter is now lost, it must have expressed sympathy for the Republican cause because Markievicz writes that she is pleased, “to find that I have a cousin who is sympathetic & feels the same intense love for our country that I do”.

    The undated letter seems to be been written around September 25-26 1920. In it she refers to two attacks on September 23 by the newly formed ‘Black and Tans’ – auxiliary policemen in the Royal Irish Constabulary noted for their indiscriminate brutality.  Markievicz was on the run from the British authorities at the time.  She had played a significant role in the Easter Rising of 1916 and escaped the firing squad only because she was a woman. She spent the rest of her life dedicated to the Irish Republican cause, and in 1918 became the first woman ever to be elected to the UK Parliament although like all Sinn Fein MPs then and since she did not take up her seat.  It is estimated at £4,000-6,000.