Orpen’s point of view on “a time of debauchery” in Venice at auction


De Vere’s catalog for its November art sale certainly lives up to its title of Outstanding Irish Art.

Four Paul Henrys, a museum-worthy William Orpen and Roderic O’Conor, and a Jack B Yeats with ties to his brother WB’s poem The Stolen Child, are just a few of the highlights among the 83 lots. The sale, which is only online with daily visits to the Kildare Street gallery in Dublin, is currently open and ends on Tuesday 23 November.

For the cover, Rory Guthrie, director of the house, chose After the Ball by one of the greatest war artists, Sir William Orpen.

Unlike the death and decadence that surrounded it, capturing the angst and agony of World War I, the theme of this painting was lost to its viewers in its first exhibition. It was the centerpiece of so-called British art in Pittsburgh at the Carnegie International Exhibition and remained in the United States until its current repatriation, according to art historian Professor Kenneth McConkey.


While she was first described as “a little bit fun” and a crowd-pleaser, perhaps it was her size that first caught the attention of critics. In fact, what’s on display inside its 5ft x 4ft frame is a post-carnival scene in Venice, where, in a moonlit courtyard after the ball, masked and costumed aristocrats prepare for a night of meeting with a woman.

Created in 1296, to appease the peasants and allow a time of debauchery to balance the austerity ahead of Lent, the Carnival allowed princes and the poor to mix under the veil of masks and costumes, religion, gender and social status being hidden.

Inspired by Roman Saturnalia, the most transgressive acts occurred at sunset, and far beyond orgies and adultery was criminality – often murder – taking advantage of the anonymity afforded by the festival.

Although he was arrested for two centuries – first by Napoleon in 1797 – until 1967, Orpen would have been familiar and fascinated by eroticism thanks to his friend Charles Conder, who had made the Carnivale lithographs in 1905.

“This piece and Roderic O’Conor’s pieces have a great presence, as they were painted as showcases for an exhibition, and represent major works for these artists,” according to Guthrie, who set an estimate of 140,000 to € 180,000 for what he calls the “National Gallery Standard” of After the Ball.

Lakeside Cottages, Paul Henry, € 200,000 to € 300,000

Cottages, Connemara, Paul Henry, € 80,000 to € 120,000

Cottages, Connemara, Paul Henry, € 80,000 to € 120,000

Goose Girl, Colin Middleton € 20,000 to € 30,000

Goose Girl, Colin Middleton € 20,000 to € 30,000

Fans of Paul Henry, who was commissioned by the New Irish State in the 1920s and 1930s to help create a sense of identity and cultural history, have four works to choose from. Two large paintings “are as good as I’ve seen of Henry’s work – especially for their size,” says Guthrie of Lakeside Cottages and Fishing Boats, Dugort, both of which are priced between € 200,000 and € 300,000.

Cottages, Connemara which is appearing on the market and Winter Trees – of closely tangled branches – ask respectively 80,000 to 120,000 € and 70,000 to 100,000 €.


Glencar’s waterfall in Sligo, near Yeats ‘family home, inspired WB Yeats’ poem The Stolen Child, in which fairies make a child run away with them: rushes, which few could bathe a star ” .

His brother Jack B Yeats also found the place, known for wild garlic, rhododendron and overgrown forest, inspiring and The Waterfall (€ 140,000 – € 180,000) is one of many works by the artist to celebrate the location, and is “on one level, a witty representation of the tourist seeking sensory experiences,” according to historian Dr. Roisin Kennedy.

Nature Morte, from 1921 (150,000 to 250,000 €) is the first and, according to some, the only true impressionist painter of Ireland – Roderic O’Conor – who lived in the artistic enclave of Pont Aven in Brittany where he befriended Paul Gauguin and was instrumental in the discovery of Van Gogh’s art in the 1890s.

Two astonishing works by Hughie O’Donoghue are also featured along with works by Gerard Dillon, John Shinnors, Mark Francis and Donald Teskey.

Chef, Daniel O'Neill 20,000 to 30,000 €

Chef, Daniel O’Neill 20,000 to 30,000 €

Forgive us our Tresspass, Gerard Dillon 40,000 to 60,000 €

Forgive us our Tresspass, Gerard Dillon 40,000 to 60,000 €

Three people and a Piet Mondrian, Robert Ballagh € 1,000 to € 1,500

Three people and a Piet Mondrian, Robert Ballagh € 1,000 to € 1,500

O’Donoghue’s Medusa, which was part of a series produced for the Galway Arts Festival 2006, is based on Gericault’s Medusa Raft at the Louvre. The French naval frigate floundered in 1816 and the majority of the crew perished, in a tragedy which became a national scandal (18,000 – 24,000 €).

Another tragedy is found in Raft, from 2007, based on the wreck of the Plassey on Inis Oirr, which ran aground in 1960 and appears in the opening credits of the comedy series Father Ted.

Although the painting looked dark and almost haunting, the entire crew survived as the islanders helped them to safety. It’s a remarkably large room and will require a massive wall to maximize its ethereal nature ($ 25,000- $ 35,000).


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