John Lavery masterpieces dominate London sale

Seven works in all by the artist are featured at Sotheby’s

Two masterpieces by John Lavery will make their auction debut in London this week, in a sale that will also include works by Jack B Yeats, Hughie O’Donoghue and Rowan Gillespie.

At the same time as the National Gallery of Ireland celebrates the work of the Irish painter, with its exhibition Lavery on Location, Sotheby’s will bring some of the artist’s most significant paintings to auction as part of its Modern British and Irish Art sale, which will take place on November 21st-22nd in London.

A Moorish Harem (£300,000-£500,000) is evocative of Lavery’s Moroccan travels, whereby he undertook a 100-mile journey from Tangier to Fez on horseback. According to catalogue notes, though the artist would have seen numerous harem paintings in Paris, they were “all lascivious fantasies with no documentary accuracy, as westerners were strictly forbidden from entering these restricted enclaves. This image is not a product of the artist’s imagination but what he observed, a search for visual truth”.

This is reiterated by RB Cunninghame Graham (Lavery’s travelling companion), who likened these women to “invisible birds”, noting they rarely left their tents, and if they did, their faces were covered by blue veils.


Ariadne, which carries the same estimate, has not been seen in public for almost 90 years, as it was constantly reworked by Lavery, and remained in his studio until after his death in Kilkenny in 1941. Five more Lavery works, including two portraits, are listed, along with Mrs O’Sullivan and her Family (£50,000-£70,000), which is inscribed “Kerry, 1924″ on the reverse. Part of the artist’s estate, it is from a time when Kerry woman Mrs O’Sullivan invited the artist in for tea, and he captured the hospitality of a typical Irish family.

Two Jack B Yeats works feature: The Donkey Show (£400,000-£600,000) and The Trotter (£80,000-£120,000). Yeats was particularly fond of donkeys, and the animal often featured in his sketchbooks, but his first ever painting of the creature depicted in Donkey Show at Goff’s Yard, was destroyed at the Royal Hibernian Academy fire during the 1916 Rising, and he waited a full decade before painting a second version. The Trotter, executed in 1925, the same year as The Donkey Show, is said to characterise Yeats’s later work, with the horse said to symbolise a new direction in his oeuvre with more gestural brushstrokes.

Works by Gerard Dillon, Hughie O’Donoghue, Orla de Brí and Rowan Gillespie also feature, as does Frederick Edward McWilliam, who is represented by Woodhenge, a unique cherry wood sculpture (£200,000-£300,000). It is evocative of other works he produced in the 1930s and 1940s, such as Eye, Nose and Cheek, from 1939, which is part of the Tate Collection

Currently taking place alongside the sale, and ending November 22nd, is a selling exhibition by Sotheby’s of 12 works by Colin Davidson, the Northern Irish portrait artist, who has painted everyone from Angela Merkel and Ed Sheeran to Brad Pitt and Bill Clinton.


Victor Mee Auctions will hold the Medussa Architectural and Antique sale from November 21st to 23rd. The online sale features the contents from Medussa Antiek and Salvage Yard in Belgium, and other collections. Curiosities from the Belgian company, a hub for collectors since 1984, include a 1930s dental chair and bison taxidermy. Highlights include a 19th-century neo-gothic oak pulpit by French cabinetmaker Charles Buisine-Rigot (€5,000-€8,000), which was made in the 1970s for a Catholic church in the north of England. Stained glass and garden statuary also feature, alongside Italian Ceccarelli urns and a 19th-century oak spinning wheel (€20-€40). The sale is off-site, and viewings will take place at Crannagael Yard, Fernagreevagh Road, Annamore, Co Armagh, as the auction is in association with Derry’s of Armagh.

Weldon’s Diamonds

Also on November 21st, John Weldon of Temple Bar will hold a live online sale of more than 350 lots, the highlights of which are two sparklers. The star lot is a fine diamond solitaire (3.06ct) and a G colour (€25,000-€35,000). “It is rare to get a diamond over three carats which is G colour and VVS2 clarity (very, very small inclusions) – especially at auction,” says Weldon. “G colour means near colourless; the colour of water is deemed to be the ideal, and as the inclusions are so very tiny you cannot see them with the naked eye.”

Weldon has a video of this sparkler on his Instagram post as he does of a two-carat diamond ring, which comes with a valuation certificate from Weirs, that the piece is worth €41,000 for insurance purposes (€7,000-€10,000). He also has four Rolex watches to choose from, including a boxed Submariner (€10,000-€15,000).

Gold and silver

On November 28th, Kells-based auctioneer Damien Matthews will hold a sale of more than 600 lots from various executor and pawnbroker instructions. Included are two gents Rolex watches, Colombian emerald diamond rings, and “an exceptional sapphire and diamond cluster ring”.,,