Information about Art, Antiques and Auctions in Ireland and around the world
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    Friday, April 5th, 2024

    The most valuable Sir Arthur Conan Doyle manuscript ever at auction comes up at Sotheby’s in New York next June. The autograph manuscript of the Sherlock Holmes novel The Sign of the Four, signed twice and with edits to Americanize the text is estimated at $800,000-$1.2 million. It is offered with a collection of autograph letters between Doyle and J. M Stoddart, the American businessman and editor of Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, who commissioned The Sign of Four. The letters chronicle the progress of the book, including discussion on the title as well as Doyle’s happiness with the printing, in particular the illustration.

    Sotheby’s Book Week sale on June 26 will feature as its centerpiece the Library of Dr. Rodney P. Swantko, a significant collection of modern literature encompassing rare examples of the most famous volumes in English and American literature from the past two centuries. The sale offers a remarkable array of over forty rare books and manuscripts encompassing iconic works by, Charles Dickens, F. Scott
    Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Vladimir Nabokov, Edgar Allan Poe, John Steinbeck, and Walt Whitman. The Swantko collection also features two extraordinary literary artworks including Sidney Paget’s original drawing for the illustration “The Death of Sherlock Holmes” for the Conan Doyle short story “The Final Problem.”


    Wednesday, April 3rd, 2024

    This pair of fossilised Irish elk antlers will come up at Sotheby’s in London on April 11 with an estimate of £20,000-£30,000. One has four points, the other eight and there are restorations. Although the elk inhabited a vast expanse of central Europe and Asia, the largest concentration of its remains have been found mainly in the marl underlying bogland of Ireland, giving rise to the popular nomenclature of this species. The high calcium carbonate content of the marl is conducive to the preservation of bones, and examples of these ancient antler specimens have been discovered in Counties Wayerford, Clare and Cork, many of them in caves. Many have featured in Irish banqueting halls following a centuries-old tradition, particularly during the 19th century, when it was fashionable for such antiquarian relics to be displayed in baronial halls. An instance of this is recorded in an 1850s interior drawing of the new manor at Adare, Co. Limerick. The antlers are part of a sale of Classic Design and are listed in the catalogue as property from Ollerton Grange, a lavish Cheshire mansion. The sale includes a set of 12 Irish George III silver dinner plates from the Drogheda Service by Robert Calderwood (£8,000-£12,000) and a pair of Irish silver soup tureens by Calderwood (£10,000-£15,000).


    Friday, March 29th, 2024

    Untitled by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat

    Untitled 1984 by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat – the most significant collaboration painting at auction in a decade – will highlight Sotheby’s marquee contemporary art auction in New York in May. This large -scale example of a creative experiment that fused their distinctive visual languages and styles – Warhol’s signature use of screenprinting and mechanically produced imagery, such as corporate logos, coupled with Basquiat’s expressionistic, figurative scrawls in paintstick – to create one of the most singular bodies of work in 20th century art during their famed period of collaboration from 1983 – 1985.
    In the four decades since their creation, the Warhol-Basquiat collaboration paintings have only added to the mystique and legend of their creators, and stand out as daring testaments to their artistic partnership and friendship.

    Coming to auction for the first time in nearly 15 years with an estimate in the region of $18 million, Untitled’s sale is set to mark a new benchmark price for the series.


    Tuesday, March 26th, 2024

    Francis Bacon’s haunting Portrait of George Dyer Crouching comes up at Sotheby’s contemporary art evening auction in New York in May. It is the first in a series of ten monumental portraits of Dyer created between 1966 and 1968 and it has never been on the auction market before. Dyer is portrayed shirtless, crouched over his discarded shirt like a predator over his prey, his head depicted in triplicate as it turns towards the viewer, combining Dyer’s face with Bacon’s, nodding to their indivisibility. This image of the entwined head is among the best examples within Bacon’s oeuvre – a significant motif that would persist throughout his work. The revolutionary impact that Dyer and Bacon had on each other’s lives can be felt palpably here, as the first painting in a series that would, over years, chronicle the seduction and sadness, frustration and fulfillment, tension and collapse that underlined one of the most tempestuous relationships in art history.

    It was acquired from The Marlborough Gallery in 1970 and has not been on the market since. It is the first full-scale portrait of Dyer at auction since another from this same cycle, George Dyer Talking, sold in 2014 for $70 million – establishing the record for any single-panel portrait by Bacon. The centerpiece of Francis Bacon: Man and Beast held at the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 2022 Portrait of George Dyer Crouching is estimated at between $30 million and $50 million.


    Thursday, March 14th, 2024
    The Writings of Oscar Wilde – Keller-Farmer Co. 1907

    A finely bound limited-edition collection of The Writings Of Oscar Wilde from 1907 is available at Sotheby’s buy now platform priced at $5,500. The Wilde collection – a set of 15 – was published by Keller-Farmer Co., 1907 and is number 75 out of a limited edition of 200 seta. Profusely illustrated throughout the set is in very good condition.


    Friday, February 23rd, 2024
    Francis Bacon –  Study of George Dyer UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR £6.8 MILLION

    Francis Bacon’s last intimately scaled portrait of his lover George Dyer shortly before his tragic death comes up at Sotheby’s in London on March 6. Acquired directly from the Marlborough Gallery in London in 1970, the year it was painted the portrait is charged with extraordinary intimacy and framed within a seductive dark background. The depiction of Dyer – at the time, the love of Bacon’s life – was selected by the artist for inclusion in his major retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris held in the autumn of 1971. The work was briefly seen in 1993, when it was included in an exhibition of the artist’s small portrait studies at the Marlborough Gallery, after which it went back onto its owners wall until now. It is estimated at £5 – £7 million.

    The major retrospective of Bacon’s work at the Grand Palais was of great personal significance to Bacon as it marked only the first time after Picasso – Bacon’s artist hero – that a living artist had been afforded a one-man show at the prestigious venue. The monumental occasion celebrating the artist’s already stellar career was, however, marred by an event which would leave Bacon grief-stricken: barely thirty-six hours before the opening, Dyer was found dead from an overdose of sleeping pills, exacerbated by alcohol abuse, in the hotel suite the pair shared. Despite suffering from numbing shock and a despairing guilt, Bacon continued with the opening apparently unabated, though the shadow Dyer cast over Bacon would linger for the rest of his life.

    The Dyer portrait leads a powerful and arresting group of twentieth-century artworks from a distinguished private collection at Sotheby’s in London this March.. Assembled with unfaltering energy and focus over some sixty years, the paintings, sculpture and drawings that comprise the collection are linked by a common thread – an unwavering interest in the human form by artists at the peak of their powers who sought to convey the emotions and forces that govern and dictate the human condition. Art by Chaïm Soutine, Jean Dubuffet, Henry Moore, Henri Matisse, Edouard Vuillard and Henri Hayden will be presented in Sotheby’s Modern & Contemporary evening and day auctions on March 6 and 7. A further selection of works from this collection will be offered across a range of sales in London up until June. They were sourced principally in the late 1960s and the 1970s, chiefly from the leading London galleries of the moment such as Marlborough, Alex Reid & Lefevre, Waddington, Crane Kalman and Redfern.


    Saturday, January 13th, 2024
    An interior shot of Palazzo Volpi in Venice with contents to be sold by Sotheby’s in Paris.

    Art mirrors life and the life it is currently mirroring is one of censorship and intolerable attacks on freedom of expression.  The art world has not been immune as  the Israeli-Hamas war has spawned a new wave of hidden and not so hidden persuaders who move to stifle anything other than total support for hardliners against humanity. Against this background of global uncertainty there is a pipeline of interesting international sales coming up in 2024.  On offer already are a variety of covetable lots as diverse as the contents of a sumptuous Venetian palace on the Grand Canal to Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Archive to a Royal portrait by Velazquez and property from the life and career of Marilyn Monroe.  We must assume that all this will be okay once there is nothing in these auctions – such as seeking a ceasefire in Gaza – that can be construed as anti-semitic.

    A pair of stools or tabourets delivered to the Empress Josephine at Christie’s in New York

    Sotheby’s will offer 200 lots from Palazzo Volpi in Venice at an auction in Paris on February 28. The collection will include palatial Roman tables, ballroom banquettes, art panels in the style of Jacopo Sansovino, Wagner sofas and Venetian mirrors. Julien’s will offer contents from the Playboy archives and from Marilyn Monroe at a three day sale in Los Angeles on March 28, 29 and 30.  Highlights will include a Playboy Bunny silkscreen by Andy Warhol and a black and cellophane effect evening gown worn by Monroe in The Seven Year Itch.  The Velazquez portrait of Isabel de Borbon is at Sotheby’s in New York on February 1.

    A black and cellophane effect evening gown worn by Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch at Julien’s

    Elvis Presley’s Gretsch guitar from his Las Vegas residency is among the lots at Christie’s Exceptional Sale in New York on the same day along with a pair of c1800 tabourets or stools delivered to the Empress Josephine at Chateau de St. Cloud.

    It has the potential to be an exciting year with many records being broken at home and abroad.  Yet in 2024 there are well founded accusations of censorship in an art world that has never been noted for its lack of freedom of expression.  In New York board members and many art writers withdrew in protest after the editor of the prestigious Artforum magazine, David Valasco, was abruptly fired when a letter supporting Palestinian liberation was published which omitted to mention the victims of the Hamas attack on October 7.  Advertisers like gallerist David Zwirner and the Chanel culture fund threatened to withdraw.The Saarland Museum in Germany cancelled an exhibition by Candice Breitz, who is Jewish and has condemned Hamas, saying they would not show works by anyone who does not recognise Hamas terror as a rupture of civilisation.  The entire selection panel for the next curator of Documenta, a global art exhibition in 2027, resigned after disputes with administrators about the war. This mirrors the wider environment.  Think of resignations like that of Harvard President Claudine Gay in a campaign led by the Wall Street Jewish financier Bill Ackman whose wife is a former member of the IDF. You do not need to be a soothsayer to know there will be more resignations. UPDATE: The first American retrospective of Samia Halaby (87), regarded as one of the most important living Palestinian artists, has been cancelled by officials at Indiana University.

    Andy Warhol’s original Playboy Bunny at Julien’s.


    Friday, January 12th, 2024

    The earliest posted envelope using a prepaid stamp comes up at Sotheby’s in New York on February 2. The Penny Black fixed to a Mulready envelope is estimated at $1.5-$2.5 million.

    Introduced at the beginning of May, 1840, the Mulready, an ornate wrapper designed by William Mulready, and
    the Penny Black, the world’s first adhesive postage stamp, aimed to streamline and revolutionize postage
    prepayment. Both methods were an important new step in communication, eliminating the need fol carriers
    to handle money, reducing the risk of theft and forgery. This pre-paid envelope, the earliest known in existence,
    was successfully sent, firstly stamped with a Penny Black on May 2, then ingeniously repurposed, turned inside
    out, and remailed as a Mulready on May 4, the letter covered a combined journey of over 400 miles, all before
    the official start date for the stamp on May 6.

    Before the introduction of postage stamps, mail in the United Kingdom was paid for by the recipient, a system
    that was associated with an irresolvable problem: the costs of delivering mail were not recoverable by the
    postal service when recipients were unable or unwilling to pay for delivered items. The adoption of prepayment, championed by Birmingham School teacher Rowland Hill, was a result of the Postage Reform Act of 1839, which abolished free franking privileges and established uniform penny postage rates. The subsequent Treasury Competition, offering a prize for the best prepayment solution, garnered over 2,600 entries, leading to the creation of new stationery and stamps. UPDATE: THIS WAS UNSOLD


    Friday, January 5th, 2024

    Sumptuous lots from Palazzo Volpi, the Renaissance palace on the Grand Canal in Venice and birthoplace of the Venice Film Festival, will come under the hammer at Sotheby’s in Paris on February 28. A total of 200 lots of furniture and works of art from the collection of Count and Countess Volpi of Misurata will include palatial Roman tables, ballroom banquettes, sopraporta panels in the styleof Jacopo Sansovino, Wagner sofas and Venetian mirrors. They will include items from the palace’s piano nobile, the main floor containing the portego (a typically Venetian reception room), the ballroom and the music room. Highlights will include a set of 14 Venetian giltwood chairs, a pair of Italian giltwood side tables and a Venetian Japanese style console.

    The magnificent Renaissance residence was acquired in 1917 by Count Giuseppe Volpi di Misurata (1877-1947), founder of the Venice International Film Festival after whom the Volpi Cup prize for the best actor and actress is still named. Over the course of his lifetime and the generation that has followed, the Count and his family hosted some of the greatest names in the 20th century in the opulent rooms of the palazzo including Winston Churchill, Coco Chanel, Josephine Baker, King Fouad of Egypt, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Andy Warhol, Cary Grant, Paul Newman, Barbara Hutton, Elizabeth Taylor, Gina Lollobrigida, Harrison Ford and George Clooney.



    Sunday, December 31st, 2023

    This full length  portrait of Isabel de Borbon (1602-44), Queen of Spain, the most important work by Diego Velázquez  to come to market in half a century, comes up at Sotheby’s in New York on February 1 with an estimate of around $35 million (€32.48 million).  The much loved queen, widely admired for her quick wit, intelligence and generous spirit, was daughter of King Henri IV of France and his second wife, Marie de Medici. The portrait once hung at the Buen Retiro palace in Madrid and at the Louvre. It was taken to France after Napoleon’s invasion of Spain in 1808 and sold to merchant banker Henry Huth in 1838.  Last at auction in 1950 it has been in the possession of the present owners since 1978 and is among the most valuable Old Masters ever to come to market. The last time a portrait of this calibre by the artist came to auction was 1970, when his Juan de Pareja sold for £2.3 million (€2.69 million)  – almost tripling the previous world auction record for any painting. Velázquez is among the most influential Spanish painters of all time.