National Gallery acquires Harry Clarke’s Titania and Bottom for €160,000

The only Shakespeare-inspired stained glass work by the artist will be displayed at the gallery in the new year

One of Harry Clarke’s finest stained-glass panels, Titania and Bottom, which is encased in a walnut and tortoiseshell cabinet, has been acquired by the National Gallery of Ireland. It will be displayed in room 20 of the gallery in the new year after undergoing conservation.

From the collection of the Irish surgeon Robert Woods, who commissioned the piece in 1922, it was purchased this October through Morgan O’Driscoll for €160,000 (plus fees), against a €100,000-€150,000 estimate. It is a tidy return for the savvy investor who paid $47,880 (€44,319), against a lower estimate of $5,000, for the piece at the Ann and Gordon Getty sale in New York earlier this summer.

The record for a work by Clarke was a hammer price of €165,000 for Bluebeard’s Last Wife, through Adam’s in 2021.

“What was incredible were the number of people coming in just to have a look at it. Some queued for 20 minutes, so you could really see its appeal,” says Cork-based auctioneer Morgan O’Driscoll. While there were a couple of bidders initially, it was down to a buyer in the US and the National Gallery, with the hammer falling for the Irish nation in the end.


Financed by the patrons of the National Gallery of Ireland, whose membership fees support such acquisitions, it shows the growing popularity of Clarke’s work. Just last week, Adam’s of St Stephen’s Green achieved more than three times its lower estimate for (€20,000-€30,000) The Colloquy of Monos and Una, as the pencil, ink and watercolour sold for €70,000.

Titania and Bottom is the only glass work by Clarke that was inspired by Shakespeare, depicting Act IV, Scene 1 from his comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Clarke made a unique series of literature inspired panels, adorned with botanical elements, “adapting his talent and passion of book illustration to the medium of stained glass”, according to a spokesperson for the gallery.

Set in hand-made cabinets by esteemed Dublin maker James Hicks – making both the case and its contents works of art – Titania and Bottom is one of just five panels to survive, and joins the Song of the Mad Prince, a miniature panel inspired by a Walter de la Mare at the Gallery.

Two further works on paper by Clarke also sold well in Adam’s sale last week, with the hammer falling at €10,000 for The Magic Glasses (€8,000-€12,000), and €15,000 for Hilda Luvia (€15,000-€25,000). Clarke drew these as illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination.

If you are a fan of Clarke, and live in, or intend to visit Cork, where this latest Clarke was sold, then it is worth a detour to the Crawford Art Gallery, where its annual Clarke exhibition, Bad Romance, is now open until February. Twenty-six ink, watercolour and stained-glass works feature, some of which are lavish illustrations for Poe’s writings. If you’re free today, Saturday, or tomorrow, the Art Gallery is running lunchtime free family-friendly workshops, where artist Queenie O’Sullivan will help you design your own stained-glass-inspired artwork. And while you’re there, do not miss the All Eyes on Us portraits exhibition.,