Friday 19 January 2018

Yeats treasure trove goes on display ahead of auction

A John Butler Yeats self portrait at the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin. Picture: Getty
A John Butler Yeats self portrait at the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin. Picture: Getty
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

Handwritten love letters, a storage case for toy boats, pencil sketches, a solid oak writing bureau, and a collapsible silk top hat. All offer tantalising glimpses into the daily life of Ireland's most significant literary and artistic family.

More than 70 items from the Yeats family collection have gone on display in the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin before being auctioned in London later this month.

They are among hundreds of Irish items expected to sell for up to €4.6m at Sotheby's come September 27. The items from the Yeats collection span three generations.

John Butler Yeats is often overlooked in favour of his celebrated children, WB and Jack, but his final self portrait is one of the most striking lots. The painting, which has a starting price of €33,800, took eight years to complete and shows him standing in Petitpas boarding house.


It is believed he may have prolonged finishing the painting to avail of the monthly stipend he was receiving from the patron, John Quinn.

WB Yeats's oak and mahogany writing bureau is valued at between €22,500 and 33,800.

The desk was used by the playwright in the later years of his life.

Fittingly, they stand next to a glass cabinet full of romantic correspondence between Yeats and his life-long friend Olivia Shakespear, which are expected to sell for up to €400,000.

Jack Yeats's collapsible top hat is valued at a more modest sum of €600.

Irish Independent

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