Tuesday 20 February 2018

Interest flags as historical items fail to sell

Jason O'Brien

THE sale flagged, and the flag didn't sell. Of 69 items of historic and artistic Irish value that went under the hammer in New York yesterday -- including the last full-sized Tricolour from the 1916 Rising still in existence -- just 16 were sold.

The linen flag, with a guide price of between $500,000 to $700,000 (€370,000 to €520,000) , was the centrepiece of 'The Irish Sale' at Bloomsbury, but was withdrawn from the auction without reaching those figures.

But the auctioneers said last night that they were optimistic about the prospects of arranging a private sale by the end of the week, and the Tricolour that once flew from the top of the GPO could soon be on public display in the US.

"The flag is under negotiation at the moment," Ian Whyte of Whyte's Auctioneers said. "There's a good chance that we'll have it sold by the end of the week to an American bidder.

"Overall I think we'll end up getting a good result out of it.

"It was withdrawn at $400,000 (€296,000). I think probably the owner was looking for a little bit more than that. I think we just have to match the owner's expectations with the price the bidder wants to play, and we might have a deal."

A prominent Dublin family currently owns the flag which has passed through a number of hands since 1916, but the identity of the prospective owner remains a mystery.


"We're dealing with someone acting on their behalf so it is difficult to tell," Mr Whyte said.

"From what I can gather it is a private collector, and if it is sold it will be put on public show in New York somewhere," he added.

Mr Whyte, who ran the auction alongside Bloomsbury, said he was "happy enough" with the auction, despite the failure to sell the flag or a rare first edition of WB Yeats's first published work, which had a guide price of $70,000 (€52,000).

"The price we got for the John Lavery painting -- 'Sunbathers' -- we are happy about," he said.

A pair of Irish giltwood mirrors fetched the next highest price of $25,000 (€19,000), but the rest of the items auctioned sold for significantly smaller amounts.

Irish Independent

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