17th-century Netherlands in focus as Dutch Masters arrive in Dublin

An exhibition of works, including those by Rembrandt, opens today at the National Gallery, while Sotheby’s prepares to auction unpublished works by poet Ted Hughes

Opening on Saturday at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin is a selection of Dutch drawings on loan from the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands. The 48 works by 31 17th century artists, will go on display, giving Irish audiences a unique opportunity to view the artworks close up.

Giving insights to life into the 17th century in the Netherlands, from a child taking its first steps to a captive monkey, the collection also features curiosities such as Jacob de Gheyn II, Four Studies of a Diseased Mouse, and Paulus Potter’s The Dying Horse. As curator Anne Hodge described the various subjects: “All of life is here, from studies of plants and animals to portraits of loved ones, and records of conflagrations and comets, architecture and landscape.”

Rembrandt, who was born 416 years ago yesterday, features in a humorous self-portrait with a bold glint in his eye. A flow of visitors will no doubt trek to see his seminal work, The Annunciation to the Shepherds. Although he had painted night scenes before, this was the Dutch Master’s first attempt at duplicating the effects in etching, of a scene he imagined where a large winged angel came to tell of the birth of Christ.

The exhibition includes a wide variety of media and techniques, including graphite, ink, watercolour, chalks and etchings that complement the Gallery’s strong collection of 17th century Dutch paintings.


Organised in co-operation with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and running until November 6th, there are a number of free talks, events and family workshops to support the exhibition.

These events include Dutch Drawing Styles and Concepts, with artist PJ Lynch. It will run in September in an online format and costs €35 for three classes, while an online talk, The Collection of Drawings at the Rijksmuseum, with Ilona Van Tuinen, head of the Rijksprentenkabinet, will take place on Wednesday, September 14th, and will cost €10.

Ted Hughes

A series of unpublished handwritten poems from Ted Hughes, which he wrote in the tragic aftermath of the suicide of his partner Assia Wevill and death of their four-year-old daughter Shura in 1969, will be offered at Sotheby’s Books, Manuscripts and Music from Medieval to Modern sale, which is open for bidding until July 19th. With an estimate of £10,000-£15,000 (€11,800-€17,750), the materials offer an insight into the overwhelming grief that Hughes experienced at that time, which was just six years after the suicide of his first wife, Sylvia Plath.

Wevill and Hughes began an affair in 1962, and this was one of the causes of the breakdown of his marriage to the American poet Sylvia Plath in the summer of that year. The final trip taken by Plath and Hughes — hailed as the greatest letter writer since John Keats — was to the village of Cleggan in Connemara.

Written hurriedly in Hughes’ personal notebook, the poems have come directly through the family, and “their fragmentary and incomplete structure suggests that Hughes found the subject too painful and abandoned the works”, which are “extensively revised and the beginning and endings of the poems are not always clear”, according to catalogue notes.

Whyte’s art sale

Currently open, Whyte’s of Molesworth Summer Art Auction will end on Monday, July 25th. The online-only sale (viewing from this Wednesday, July 20th, at its saleroom) offers a number of affordable works by many well-known Irish artists. Given its timing, there are a number of seasonal works with splashes of sunshine, including six paintings by John Morris, where sunlight glistens on blue horizons (from €200 to €2,000 depending on size and composition). Another lovely beach scene is Patrick Leonard’s The Lost Tennis Ball, Rush Beach, Co Dublin, 1949 (€800-€1,200).

Chateau treasures

This coming Monday and Tuesday (July 18th and 19th), Cavan auctioneer Victor Mee will hold a Decorative Interiors, Architectural and Pub Memorabilia live and online sale.

Of interest is an entire hand-painted gilded gesso panelled room. It originated in a chateau near Versailles, according to the catalogue, and was used as a set piece for the Hollywood film Disenchanted, starring Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey, which was shot in the Wicklow village of Enniskerry over the past two years. Described by Mee as “totally bespoke and truly majestic”, it is listed with a €25,000-€35,000 estimate.

Highlights of the lighting section include a wrought-iron, two-tier, nine-branch chandelier with alabaster shades (€350-€550), and a bronze and opaque glass centre light decorated with the Greek winged stallion Pegasus (€725-€925). A lovely option is a pair of brass hanging lights decorated with acanthus leaves and opaque glass panels (€725-€925 each). There is an abundance of wall lights, with glass and brass options, in the €40-€80 bracket.

Summer catering pieces include a handmade bar with stools in roughly hewn wood (€900-€1,200), while a more formal mahogany version is estimated at €800-€1,600, along with a redbrick pizza oven (€400-€1,000), and bricked stone Italian barbecue at €700-€1,000.

nationalgallery.ie, sothebys.com, whytes.ie, victormeeauctions.ie

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables