Information about Art, Antiques and Auctions in Ireland and around the world
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    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.

    FROM €15,000 to €12.7 MILLION IN JUST TWO YEARS

    Friday, December 8th, 2023
    Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn – The Adoration of the Kings

    Rembrandt’s rediscovered Adoration of the Kings sold for £10.9 million (€12.7 million) at Sotheby’s in London on December 6. Just two years ago – when it was attributed to the Circle of Rembrandt – it was valued at just €10,000-€15,000 at Christie’s in Amsterdam. The complex monochromatic painting had been almost entirely unseen by scholars since the 1950’s when it came to light.

    It was included in museum exhibitions and referenced as a Rembrandt work by leading Rembrandt scholars in the 1950s, but in 1960 German art historian Kurt Bauch, who only knew the painting from a black and white photograph, described it as a product of the Rembrandt School and omitted it from from the catalogue raisonné he was compiling. Thereafter, the painting was “entirely overlooked and completely ignored in the Rembrandt literature,” according to Sothebys. Following an 18 month research programme by Sotheby’s it was recognised as a work of great significance from Rembrandt’s early career.

    The Adoration of the Kings was acquired by collector J.C.H. Heldring in Amsterdam in 1955. His widow sold it to a German family in 1985, where it remained until it was sold by Christie’s in Amsterdam two years ago. The painting, which measures 9.6 x 7.3 inches, was purchased by an anonymous buyer for €860,000 at the Christie’s sale — more than 50 times the estimated value. It was later identified as the work of the Dutch master. 

    The vast majority of Rembrandt’s works hang in museums around the world, and almost all of those that have come to auction over the past three decades have been portraits or studies of single character heads.


    Friday, December 1st, 2023
    An Irish George III statuary marble, Siena, Spanish brocatelle and inlaid marble chimney piece, circa 1780, attributed to George and Hill Darley. UPDATE: THIS LOT WAS WITHDRAWN FROM THE AUCTION

    Based on new research this magnificent Irish chimney piece at Sotheby’s Albany private collection sale in London on December 6 can be attributed to George and Hill Darley. There is a shallow breakfront mantel and the moulded underside is carved with a bead-and-reel moulding and inlaid dentil detailing. The central tablet is carved with a classical vase with birds-head handles issuing berried-leaf swags tied to the corners with ribbons, flanked by inlaid panels with ribbon-tied bell-flower swage and rosettes with leaf and bead-and-reel carved mouldings.

    The work of Darley brothers George and Hill, stonecutters and furniture designers in late-eighteenth century Dublin, can still be seen on the west front of Trinity College. They also had worked on several other notable late-eighteenth century commissions, including the poet William Ashford’s house Sandymount in County Dublin, and the residence of the Italian ambassador at Lucan House. A rare collection of their fine watercolour designs for chimneypieces is held at the Royal Irish Academy. The estimate for this chimneypiece is £120,000-£180,000.


    Wednesday, November 22nd, 2023
    Irish George II mahogany silver table. UPDATE: THIS MADE £5,080

    This Irish George II silver table comes up as lot 65 at Sotheby’s in London on December 6. The rectangular top with has a raised moulded edge, the shaped apron is centred by a carved scallop shell and the gently curved legs terminate in paw feet. The estimate is £4,000-£6,000. It is part of the Albany: An Important Private Collection sale of items housed within the famous Albany on Piccadilly, the neo classical masterpiece originally built in 1770 by Sir William Chambers. The auction consists of furniture from the 17th to the early 19th centuries.


    Tuesday, November 21st, 2023

    Two artworks by Sir John Lavery and one by Jack B Yeats each made £381,000 (€437,520) at Sotheby’s Modern British and Irish art sale in London today. The Donkey Show by Yeats and A Moorish Harem and Ariadne, both by Lavery, all sold above their low estimate of £300,000. The Trotter by Yeats made £88,900 over an estimate of £80,000-£120,000 but Woodhenge by F. E. McWilliam failed to find a buyer. The Modern British and Irish day auction at Sotheby’s takes place tomorrow.

    Sir John Lavery – A Moorish Harem


    Monday, November 20th, 2023
    Lionel Messi with the 2022 FIFA World Cup Finals Shirt (France) (Front), courtesy of Sam Robles photography. UPDATE: THE SET SOLD FOR $7.8 MILLION. THIS IS THE HIGHEST PRICE PAID IN 2023 FOR SPORTS MEMORABILIA

    A set of six Lionel Messi match worn shirts from the 2022 FIFA World Cup is set to become the most valuable collection of sports memorabilia at auction. A year following Messi’s crowning achievement, Sotheby’s will present a set of six of Lionel Messi’s match-worn Argentina shirts from his historic run in Qatar. Worn by the Argentine captain during the first half of the Final, Semi-final, Quarter-final, Round of 16, and two of the three Group Stage matches, the set of six white and sky blue Argentina home shirts will be offered in a dedicated sale open for bidding from 30 November – 14 December. The extraordinary collection is estimated in excess of $10 million.

    The shirts are being brought to auction by US-based tech startup AC Momento, who in addition to their mobile app for sports fans, partners with high-profile athletes (like Messi) to help manage their match-worn memorabilia collections. A portion of the proceeds from the auction will be donated to UNICAS Project, led by Sant Joan de Déu (SJD) Barcelona Children’s Hospital with the support of Leo Messi Foundation, to meet the needs of children suffering from rare diseases. This follows the work the Leo Messi Foundation has completed with the SJD Barcelona Children’s Hospital Pediatric Cancer Center which treats 400 children with cancer each year.

    The current record for a game-worn item of sports memorabilia is Michael Jordan’s 1998 NBA Finals jersey, which sold for $10.1 million at Sotheby’s New York in September 2022


    Saturday, November 18th, 2023
    Edwin Mercer will display this Victorian lady’s vanity box at the Limerick fair this weekend.

    In the run up to Christmas the antique and art season is beginning to really hot up. Limerick racecourse is the venue for the National Antiques, Art and Vintage fair today and tomorrow. Outstanding Irish art will come under the hammer at de Veres in Dublin next Tuesday and Sotheby’s expects around €2 million worth of Irish art to change hands at evening and day sales in London on Tuesday and Wednesday.
    The calendar for the next few weeks is brimful of interest and offers a huge array of choice to eager collectors across all price levels and genres. Limerick Racecourse has proven to be an ideal venue for Hibernian Antique Fairs.  There is easy access and lots of space for antique shops, art galleries and vintage dealers.  An across the board selection this weekend includes a Victorian vanity box complete with travel accessories, bottles and even hat pins. Along with a covetable selection of antique furniture including a c1790 Irish double sided library table with hairy paw feet and Irish art there are selections of clocks and watches, militaria, jewellery, porcelain and silver.

    Rugby Sculpture (2007) by Barry Flanagan at de Veres. UPDATE: THIS MADE 40,000

    Art by Paul Henry, Walter Osborne, Gerard Dillon, Tony O’Malley, Norah McGuinness, William Scott, John Shinnors and Barry Flanagan will feature strongly at de Veres on Tuesday evening.  Bidding on this timed online sale which draws to a close from 6 pm on November 21 is already open.  It is on view at Kildare St. in Dublin for the next four days.

    Bathers, Naylor’s Cove, Bray by Harry Kernoff at Sotheby’s in London. UPDATE: THIS WAS UNSOLD

    The evening and day sales at Sotheby’s in London on November 21 and 22 are part of British and Irish art week, a series of events celebrating the art of Ireland and Britain from the 19th to the 21st centuries.  A total of 54 lots of Irish art will feature with the evening sale headed by two works from Sir John Lavery and two by Jack B Yeats.  The Lavery’s have emerged from the collection of the artists family.  Another evening highlight is a significant early carving by F.E. McWilliam titled Woodhenge.  The estimate for the piece is €229,220-€343,830. Meantime Bonhams first sale on the island of Ireland is now open for bidding online.  The Irish Sale: Vision and Voice will offer art by Paul Henry, Donald Teskey, Sir William Orpen, Maeve McCarthy, Margaret Clarke, Frank McKelvey, Wiliam Leech and Jack B Yeats along with an annotated typescript of Finnegans Wake by James Joyce and  handwritten lyrics of Your Song Saved My Life by Bono.  The auction will be on view at the City Assembly House in Dublin from November 24-28, when the sale will be held.

    Woodhenge by F.E. McWilliam at Sotheby’s. UPDATE: THIS WAS UNSOLD


    Thursday, November 16th, 2023
    Joan Mitchell (1925-1922) – Sunflowers

    Joan Mitchell’s Sunflowers sold for $27.9 million at Sotheby’s Contemporary evening auction in New York last night. The Chicago native is associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement, even though she lived in France for much of her career. The striking visual dynamism of the dense composition reveals the artist’s affinity for the American action painters, amongst whom she lived and worked in the initial decade of her career; as one of the few women to garner significant critical acclaim within the predominantly male Eighth Street Club, Mitchell is remembered by art history as the leading female voice of the Abstract Expressionist movement.