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    Thursday, November 8th, 2018

    Mask by Henry Moore will lead Bonhams Modern British and Irish art sale in London on November 14. Estimated at £1-1.7 million it is on the market for the first time in 80 years and has never before been at auction. Only four of the series of 12 masks remain in private hands with others at The Tate, Henry Moore Foundation and Leeds City Gallery.  There is a strong Irish representation in this sale with works by William Scott, Sir John Lavery and F.E. MacWilliam.  The catalogue is online. Here is a small selection:

    Sir John Lavery – Study for Ascot in Rain. UPDATE: THIS MADE £187,500

    Henry Moore – Mask (£1-1.7 million)  UPDATE: THIS MADE £3,248,750

    William Scott – Still Life with Fish (££150,000-250,000)  UPDATE: THIS WAS UNSOLD

    Sir John Lavery – S.S. Ophir (£7,000-10,000)  UPDATE: THIS MADE £21,250

    F E MacWilliam – Reclining Figure (£7,000-10,000) UPDATE: THIS WAS UNSOLD


    Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

    Epiris today announces that Epiris Fund II, advised by Epiris LLP, has agreed the acquisition of Bonhams, the global auction house, from private shareholders. This is Fund II’s fourth investment. Financial terms are not being disclosed.

    Founded in 1793, Bonhams is one of the world’s largest and most renowned auctioneers of fine art and antiques, motor cars and jewellery. The business holds more than 250 sales a year at its flagship salerooms, which include London, New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong. In 2017, Bonhams sold more than 50,000 lots, generating over £450 million of hammer sales.

    The company is led by CEO Matthew Girling and CFO Jonathan Fairhurst who will be joined by Bruno Vinciguerra as Executive Chairman. Bruno served for eight years as COO at Sotheby’s, and before that held senior roles at Bain, Dell and Disney.

    Matthew Girling, CEO of Bonhams, said: “We are delighted to have found a buyer that recognises the potential offered by this business and its employees. Bonhams is one of the world’s oldest auctioneers – and one of the most ambitious. During the past 20 years we have pursued a growth strategy that has turned the company into a truly global organisation. The value of Bonhams rests with its people, their skills, their extraordinary expertise and their strong networks across the world. Epiris has a demonstrable and successful track record in investment in growing brands and we believe that together we can continue to expand the business whilst still offering the highest possible level of service wherever we operate.”

    Bruno Vinciguerra, incoming Executive Chairman of Bonhams, said: “Bonhams is a business with great potential and a strong track record. I greatly look forward to working with the team to help deliver the next stage of growth.”

    Alex Fortescue, Managing Partner of Epiris, said: “We are thrilled to announce the acquisition of Bonhams, which is Epiris Fund II’s fourth investment. We have taken a selective approach since the fund was raised, and have been assembling a portfolio of exciting investments, each of which fits our transformative strategy. Investment activity levels remain high and we look forward to adding further to the portfolio at the appropriate time.”

    Owen Wilson, Partner at Epiris, said: “Bonhams is a global business operating in a market with long-term structural growth and high barriers to entry. It is a platform with extensive scope for transformation through investment. We are delighted to be working with Bruno, Matthew and the rest of the team to implement our shared vision.”

    Robert Brooks, shareholder and Chairman of Bonhams, said: “We have always had the intention one day to pass on the business to a new owner who shares our long-term vision for Bonhams. We would like to express our gratitude to Matthew Girling and the team, who have helped us transform the business into a truly global platform. I am immensely proud of what we have achieved at Bonhams and look forward to seeing the business continue to thrive under its new owners.”


    Monday, September 3rd, 2018

    Lady Powerscourt c1930.

    Jewellery gifted to Lady Powerscourt from Sir Chester Beatty from his personal collection will come up at Bonhams in London on September 26.  The two pieces were gifted in the 1950’s and date to the 1920’s.  They represent the Art Deco vogue for jewels in “exotic” taste.  The first – an Art Deco hardstone seal, gem-set and enamel jewel, is French in origin, dated circa 1925.  This was originally a shoulder ornament and then converted to a bracelet.  It is composed of five chalcedony seals of various colours, each engraved with a Qur’anic script and framed by black enamel. These are connected by black enamel and rose-cut diamond links with emerald and ruby bead highlights. It has a pre-sale estimate of £40,000-60,000.

    The second is an Art Deco neohrite, onyx and diamond pendant by Cartier and is estimated at £20,000-30,000.  The rectangular nephrite plaque is carved with numerous motifs that signify blessings and abundant joy. Its reverse is engraved with Chinese characters literally meaning ‘blessings come from blessings’.  It is suspended from an articulated circular plaque decorated with undulating lines of single-cut diamonds and calibré-cut onyx, mounted in platinum.

    Kieran O’Boyle, Head of Bonhams Ireland, said: “We are honoured to bring these two pieces of jewellery to auction for the first time.  Both pieces offer a glimpse into the history of Chester Beatty and his priceless art collection.”

    An avid collector who travelled extensively throughout his life, he built an impressive and diverse collection of works of art and masterpieces from Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa and employed a full-time librarian and several academic advisors to appraise items he wished to purchase.

    Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968) – Ireland’s first honorary citizen – philanthropist and one of the most significant art collectors of the 20th Century, was also one of the world’s leading mining engineers, known as the “King of Copper”. After leaving his native New York in 1912 he lived in London for many years and was an important benefactor of the British Museum.  He retired to Ireland in 1950 and in 1953 went on to set up a purpose-built library in Shrewsbury Road, Dublin, initially for research, but then open to the public.  Upon his death in 1968, his priceless collection was bequeathed to a trust for the benefit of the people of Ireland.  He was granted a State funeral and was buried at Glasnevin Cemetry in Dublin.  Today, situated in the grounds of historic Dublin Castle, the Chester Beatty Library is the pre-eminent Irish institution promoting the appreciation and understanding of world cultures and contains some of the finest treasures of the great cultures and religions of the world.

    In  1952, he met Lady Powerscourt* and the two quickly struck up a friendship.  Beatty held the highest respect for Lady Powerscourt’s knowledge, judgement and understanding of his collection, which she would ultimately help him catalogue. Sheila Wingfield, Lady Powerscourt (1906-1992), was a poet and a writer. Wealthy and beautiful, she was largely self-taught and fought various obstacles during her lifetime to gain recognition for her work, despite admiration from contemporary writers such as W.B Yeats, Sir John Betjeman and T.S Eliot. Her best-known work, considered her masterpiece, is her 2000-line poem, Beat Drum, Beat Heart (1946), written about World War II.

    An Art Deco Nephrite, Onyx and Diamond Pendant by Cartier

    An Art Deco Hardstone Seal, Gem-Set and Enamel Jewel

    Sir Alfred Chester Beatty c1911.


    Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

    An exhibition of early English clocks at runs at Bonhams, New Bond Street, London from September 3-14.  The main objective is to ignite a new public interest in exquisite clocks. Drawn from two private clock collectors it will also feature third party loans, including contributions from the Science Museum, the Clockmakers’ Company and the Collection of the 5th Lord Harris from Belmont House. The specimens on display are very rarely in the public eye and many are being displayed together almost certainly for the first time.
    Curator Richard Garnier explained: “In researching the exhibition – that displays the early development of the pendulum clock – I’ve discovered that, in England, clock case design and materials pre-dated cabinetmaking of the period. Clocks were the pinnacle of English fashion and featured expensive woods such as ebony and kingwood, leading the way in cabinet making. It seems that the common wisdom – that clock cases followed developments in the furniture trade – is wrong. It was in fact furniture that seems to have been influenced by clocks, as these new mechanical timepieces were the ultimate in designer technology and became leaders in the development of cabinetmaking.”


    Friday, August 17th, 2018

    Thomas Heapy, A family portrait – presumed to be the wife and children of Richard Bingham. Photo: Bonhams.

    The estate of the late Lady Lucan will lead Bonhams  Private Collections sale in London on October 3.  She was married to John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan, who disappeared in 1974, shortly after the attempted murder of his, by then, estranged wife and the murder of the nanny of their children, Sandra Rivett. At the inquest into Rivett?s death, Lucan was identified as her killer, the first member of the House of Lords to be named in court as a murderer since 1760.

    Lord Lucan was never found.  The presumption is that he died. Probate to his estate was granted in 1999 and a death certificate issued in 2016.  Lady Lucan died in 2017.

    Proceeds from the sale will be donated to Shelter, a charity whose objective is to see safe, secure and affordable housing for everyone.


    Thursday, July 5th, 2018

    James, 20th Earl of Kildare and his wife Emily Mary in the grounds of Carton, by Arthur Devis from the collection of the Duke of Leinster, sold for 262,000 euro at Bonhams Old Master Paintings sale in London on July 4. It had been estimated at 80,000-100,000, and was one of five works from the collection in the sale. They made a combined total of 510,215.

    The painting shows the Earl and his wife seated in the garden of the new family seat at Carton House in Kildare, commissioned by his father in 1739. The Countess is portrayed holding the plans for a bridge.

    Bonhams Representative in Ireland, Kieran O’Boyle, “These five beautiful and important pictures from the collection of the Duke of Leinster created quite the buzz when Bonhams announced their inclusion in today’s Old Master Picture sale. That interest translated into spirited competition among bidders on the telephone and in the room, seeing all five sold, with the wonderful double portrait by Arthur Devis”.

    Portrait of Emily Mary, Duchess of Leinster by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), sold for 92,215.  Portrait of Emilia Olivia, Duchess of Leinster by Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1740-1808), sold for 50,000. A pair of Views of Maynooth Castle by William Ashford P.R.H.A. (1746-1824), sold for 106,000.

    (See post on for June 17, 2018)

    James, 20th Earl of Kildare and his wife Emily Mary in the grounds of Carton, by Arthur Devis

    Portrait of Emily Mary, Duchess of Leinster by Sir Joshua Reynolds


    Monday, June 25th, 2018

    This rare portrait of Sir Francis Drake (c1540-1596)  by an unknown artist from the Anglo Dutch School was authenticated by the wart on his nose.  Experts say that genuine portraits include the wart, others do not.  The sea captain, slave trader, naval officer and explorer of the Elizabethan era is shown in expensive half armour as a man of grandeur and social standing.

    It is believed the work dates to the mid 1570’s before his famous triumph as caption and second in command of the British naval defence against the Spanish Armada in 1588.  Regarded as a hero by the English and a pirate by the Spanish he carried out the second circumnavigation of the world. Various locations globally are named after him, including Drake’s Pool in Crosshaven where he is said to have hidden from the pursuing Spanish.  The portrait comes up at Bonhams Old Masters sale in London on July 4 estimated at £300,000-500,000.   UPDATE: THIS MADE £356,750


    Sunday, June 17th, 2018

    Arthur Devis (1712-1787) – James, Ist Duke of Leinster and his wife Emily  UPDATE: THIS MADE £262,000

    This 1753 painting by Arthur Devis (1712-1787) shows James, Ist Duke of Leinster and his wife Emily seated in the grounds of Carton – a garden said to have become the model on which all later gardens in Ireland were styled.  Emily, who played an important role in the development of the house and estate, holds designs for a new bridge.  She created the Chinese Room and the shell cottage on the estate,  The grounds were re-designed in the naturalistic style of Capability Brown, incorporating an informal park, artificial lake and island, a kitchen garden and hothouses.

    Emily Lennox married James FitzGerald, 20th Earl of Kildare  and the future 1st Duke of Leinster at Richmond House, the London residence of her parents.  Those parents, the Duke and Duchess of Richmond, opposed the match at first, preferring an English man.  The wedding was magnificent but it was rumoured, incorrectly, that her parents had not given her a shilling. In fact she got £10,000, the same as her two younger sisters.  The marriage was a happy one and they had 19 children.  The work, from the collection of the current Duke of Leinster, comes up at Bonhams Old Master Paintings sale in London on July 4 estimated at £80,000-120,000.


    Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

    A pair of views of Maynooth Castle, by William Ashford P.R.H.A. (1746-1824)  comes up at Bonhams Old Master Paintings sale in London on July 4.  These fresh to market works are from the collection of the Duke and Duchess of Leinster.   Painted in the Anglo-Irish Romantic tradition, they were commissioned by William FitzGerald, 2nd Duke of Leinster.

    Ashford, in a remarkably short space of time, had advanced from being a flower painter to becoming one of the most accomplished and sought-after view painters in Ireland.  He  was elected as the first President of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1823, the year before his death. Depicting the ruins of the former FitzGerald family seat, the ‘Views of Maynooth Castle’ are signed ‘W. Ashford’ and dated 1779 and 1780. In the Carton inventory of 1885 they were listed as hanging in the passage by the principle staircase of the residence. The paintings are estimated at £80,000 – 120,000.

    WILLIAM ASHFORD P.R.H.A. (Birmingham 1746-1824 Dublin) Views of Maynooth Castle, a pair

    WILLIAM ASHFORD P.R.H.A. (Birmingham 1746-1824 Dublin) Views of Maynooth Castle, a pair



    Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

    Jack B. Yeats – Donnelly’s Hollow.  UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR 391,475

    Donnelly’s Hollow by Jack B. Yeats will lead Bonhams Modern British and Irish art sale in London on June 13.   The painting depicts the natural amphitheatre at the Curragh in County Kildare where, in 1815, the Irish boxer Dan Donnelly defeated the English champion, George Cooper. The victory assumed lasting political significance in Ireland as a symbol of resistance to the British occupation, and a commemorative monument was erected at the site.

    Donnelly was famous for the extent of his reach – he had unusually long arms – and for the ferocity of his punch which was delivered with bare knuckles (boxing gloves only became compulsory in 1867). He was, however, as wild out of the ring as in it. His prodigal lifestyle finally caught up with him, and he died penniless in 1820 at the age of 32. For many years, his right arm was displayed in a pub in Kilcullen.

    Boxing was a passion for the sports-mad Yeats, and Donnelly’s Hollow is one in a series of paintings that revisit in maturity the obsessions of the artist’s youth. The scene shows a group of visitors paying homage at the monument, and features Yeats himself standing on the hill looking down on it, meditatively. It is estimated at £300,000-500,000 (€340,000-570,000).