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Wednesday 26 April 2017

Wilde prison key unlocks €17,890 at auction

The full-length portrait of Oscar Wilde will go on display in Britain next year. Photo: Tate Britain
The full-length portrait of Oscar Wilde will go on display in Britain next year. Photo: Tate Britain
Claire Murphy

Claire Murphy

The key to Oscar Wilde's prison cell has been sold for an incredible £15,000 (€17,890) at Sotheby's auction.

The key, along with a number of English literature-themed items, went under the hammer yesterday.

The prison cell key that sold for €17,890
The prison cell key that sold for €17,890

But the key, mounted in a wooden presentation box, drew significant attention from bidders - it was only estimated to reach €6,000.

It was sold with a framed statement "from Leslie Portch, governor of HM Prison Reading".

Wilde was imprisoned in 1895. He was incarcerated for two years for the crime of "gross indecency" at a time when homosexual acts were illegal.

Another item of note at the London auction was an early copy of 'The Importance of Being Earnest', which sold for £23,125 (€27,595).

The book, which was signed by the author in 1899, was one of just 100 copies printed on lavender cloth with small gilt designs by Charles Shannon.

Separately, a portrait of Oscar Wilde, once owned by the writer, will go on display for the first time in the UK - alongside his prison cell door at Reading Gaol.

The painting was given to Wilde and his new wife Constance as a wedding present, but he later sold it after being declared bankrupt.

The door and the painting will be on display next to each other at Tate Britain next year.

Irish Independent

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