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    Sir John Lavery (1856-1941)The Hearing of the Appeal of Sir Roger Casement, a Study. UPDATE: THIS MADE 124,000 AT HAMMER

    A  never been seen publicly before on-the-spot sketch by Sir John Lavery of The Hearing of the Appeal of Sir Roger Casement in 1916 comes up at Dreweatts Modern and Contemporary art sale in March 13 with an estimate of £15,000-£25,000. It is a study for Lavery’s grand painting of The Court of Criminal Appeal London, 1916 (Government Art Collection), which is an encapsulation of the high drama surrounding the controversial trial of Roger Casement CMG (1864-1916), hung for his participation in the Irish Nationalist revolt in Dublin in 1916. Casement was an Irish-born high-profile diplomat, working for the British Foreign Office, who became well-known for his humanitarian interests (he was nicknamed the ‘father of twentieth-century human rights investigations’.

    There was huge interest in the case, with many high-profile individuals petitioning to save him from the death penalty. It was partly the discovery of what was known as ‘the black diaries’, detailing Casement’s participation in homosexual activities, that are said to have swayed public opinion. It has never been confirmed if the diaries were fabricated by the British government to diffuse the campaign for a reprieve, or whether they were in fact genuine, but they were circulated widely. As homosexuality was against the law at the time these diary entries had an inevitable effect on public opinion.

    The full-scale painted version of The Hearing of the Appeal of Sir Roger Casement was proposed by the presiding judge, Sir Charles Darling 1st Baron Darling, PC (1849-1936). Having commissioned the artist to paint other portraits of his family and having seen the artist’s other publicly exhibited works, he invited him to capture the court proceedings. The finished final painting of the work was produced in Lavery’s studio and completed in 1931. It remained there until the artist’s death in 1941, when he left it to the nation. It hung firstly in the Royal Courts of Justice and in 1950 at the request of Sergeant Sullivan, who had been part of Casement’s defence team, it was lent to King’s Inn, Dublin. 

    Lavery created the study for the painting in situ in court, with Casement looking straight out towards the jury box. Art historian Kenneth McConkey said: “For those two days Lavery, accompanied by his wife Hazel, sat in the witness box recording the scene in the present sketch. During the painful excursion into a legal precedent deriving from a fourteenth century statute on treason, Lavery’s concentration on the scene before him was intense. Although he made efforts to conceal his industry, the production of the present 10 x 14-inch canvas-board in an awkward space was detected by the press, as well as by the prisoner in the dock facing him.”

    It is accompanied by two portraits by Lavery from the family of Sir Charles Darling, as well as two other works from private sources, The Lieutenant John Clive Darling and a portrait of his mother, Lady Darling. Two other paintings are an atmospheric view from Lavery’s house at Tangier and a vivid oil sketch for his celebrated portrait of Mrs Roger Plowden and Humphrey of 1897.

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