Treasures: Portraits of 'Queen' Emily
They called her the 'Queen of Ireland'. Emily Mary FitzGerald, Duchess of Leinster, (1731-1814) was the illegitimate great granddaughter of King Charles II of England, a political influencer, and the mother of an Irish patriot.
She was born Emily Lennox, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Richmond in England, and married an Irishman, James FitzGerald, Earl of Kildare, in 1747. Her parents disapproved. They would have preferred an English husband and rumour had it they hadn't "given her a shilling". Rumour exaggerated. Emily's marriage settlement was a juicy £10,000, big, big money in those days.
Emily was one of the five Lennox sisters featured in the BBC TV series Aristocrats (1999), which was partly filmed in Carton, Co Kildare, where she lived with her husband.
There are two portraits of Emily Mary, Duchess of Leinster, in Bonham's sale of Old Master Paintings, which takes place in London on July 4. One of them, by Arthur Devis (1712-1787) (est €91,000 to €140,000), shows Emily and her husband in the grounds of Carton. She's perusing the plans for a new bridge. The painting is a record of the birth of Irish landscape gardening.
Carton was built in 1739, to designs by Richard Castle, but Emily was responsible for decorating the house and landscaping the grounds in the fashionable "naturalist" style. Her first choice of landscape gardener was the legendary 'Capability' Brown. "They offered him £1,000 to design the grounds at Carton," says Andrew McKenzie of Bonhams. "Apparently he declined. He said that he hadn't done England yet."
Undaunted, Emily employed the rest of the best to create a remarkable parkland that became the model for many other Irish estates.
Creating a "natural" landscape required a great deal of artifice. Roads were re-routed, field boundaries removed, and the river was widened to create an artificial lake complete with islands and a boathouse.
Emily was deeply political, hence the "Queen of Ireland" moniker, and steered her husband towards a Marquessate in 1761, and the Dukedom of Leinster in 1766. When politics became acrimonious, Emily admitted that she "enjoyed a good fight".
The couple had 19 children (there's a question mark over the paternity of the youngest). Their fifth son, Lord Edward FitzGerald, joined the United Irishmen. In 1798 he died of wounds sustained while resisting arrest on a charge of treason. By this stage, Emily had left Ireland following the death of her husband, and married her Scottish lover, William Ogilvie. Nine years her junior, Ogilvie, had come to Carton as tutor to her children and their alliance created a juicy scandal.
The other portrait of Emily in Bonham's sale was painted in 1774, when she was in London visiting her dying sister, Caroline, Lady Holland. It's a classic bust-length portrait (est. €68,000 to €91,000) by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), seen below. It shows Emily looking stately in a pink dress and ermine shawl, within a painted oval. She was 43 at the time, and still to have a further three children with Ogilvie.
The paintings are being sold by Maurice FitzGerald, 9th Duke of Leinster (born April 7, 1948), a landscape gardener who lives in England. The others include a portrait in pastel of Emilia Olivia, Duchess of Leinster, (est. €46,000 to €68,000) by the Irish artist, Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1740-1808). Emilia Olivia was married to Emily's oldest surviving son, William Robert FitzGerald (1749-1804), 2nd Duke of Leinster, and it is one of a pair that used to hang in the duke's dressing room at Carton.
The final lot in the collection, a pair of paintings by William Ashford (1746-1824) (est €91,000 to €140,000), show views of Maynooth Castle, adjacent to Carton.
Carton remained in the ownership of the FitzGerald family until the 1920s. It escaped destruction in the Troubles when a unit of the IRA, charged with burning it down, was shown a portrait of Lord Edward FitzGerald and told they would be burning an Irish patriot's ancestral home (or so the story goes). Around the same time, Carton passed to the 7th Duke of Leinster, the profligate Edward FitzGerald. Edward, never really expecting to inherit Carton, had previously sold his interest in the property to pay off his gambling debts. Carton has since been converted into a hotel, its grounds into golf courses, and its historic contents dispersed.
Collectively, the paintings represent a significant chunk of Irish heritage, and it would be nice to see them come home. Andrew McKenzie of Bonhams thinks this is a distinct possibility: "We've had a lot of interest among Irish buyers, especially in the Ashford views of Maynooth. Irish buyers are particularly interested in Irish topography and views by major Irish artists from that period are rare."
Bonhams' sale of Old Master Paintings takes place in London on Wednesday, July 4, at 2pm. See bonhams.com
In the Salerooms
Herman & Wilkinson
Internationally, Asian art is booming right now but, unless you're an expert, it can be hard to predict how pieces you buy will perform in the future.
Herman & Wilkinson's Asian art auction takes place in Rathmines, Dublin 6, on Wednesday, July 4, at 6pm. Potential highlights include a Chinese Qianlong Dragon Bowl in spectacular green and yellow enamel, decorated with two striding dragons in pursuit of flaming pearls (est €10,000 to €20,000).
Other Qing dynasty (1644 to 1912) pieces include a Cong vase (est €2,000 to €4,000) with elephant loop handles and a pair of sleeve vases (est €2,000 to €3,000) painted with bird and foliate motifs in blue.
Jade carvings in the sale include a Chinese Ming dynasty-style pale green jade dog and puppy (est €1000 to €2,000).
Viewing is from July 2-4, 10am to 5pm. See hermanwilkinson.ie
An auction of period furnishings will be held in Victor Mitchell's Mount Butler salerooms, Roscrea, Co Tipperary on Wednesday, July 4, starting at 10am.
The sale includes three silver trophy cups belonging to the Ball family, horse breeders and jockeys, formerly of Wintergrass House, near Bellewstown, Co Meath. One of these, awarded by The Louth Hunt Cup in 1910 and made by West and Son, Dublin, is inscribed: "Won by G J Ball's "Trade Wind" 5 years Ridden by C.L O' Callaghan" (est €750 to €1,000).
Furniture in the sale includes an Irish Sheraton period drop-leaf table, (est €2,000 to €2,500); a 19th century Irish silver table (est €3,500 to €4,000); and a Georgian longcase clock by Cork maker James Aickin (est €3,500 to €4,000). See victormitchell.com
Yellow journalism is the US term for sensationalist writing that substitutes alluring headlines for legitimate, well-researched news. William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) pioneered the genre. He also collected furniture.
An Irish marble-topped serpentine side table (c 1830), below, that once belonged to Hearst sold for €8,000 at Adam's At Home auction on June 17. The top lot in the sale, a George IV silver dessert set of vine-leaf shaped dishes (est €6,000 to €10,000), sold for €16,500, and a Chinese Kesi silk wall hanging for €6,000. See adams.ie
Milltown Country Auction Rooms
Some interesting and historic pieces of Irish country furniture are coming up for sale in Milltown Country Auction Rooms, Dromiskin, Dundalk, on Monday, July 2.
Among the 100 lots of Irish antique pine is an antique Georgian four-door cupboard and a Galway kitchen dresser, both of which came from the Aran islands, and an occasional table and two-drawer side table found in an 18th century thatched cottage outside Clifden, Co Galway.
The auction begins at noon and is conducted by Lev Mitchell & Sons Auctioneer & Valuers in conjunction with Joe Lennon. Viewing from June 30.
See milltownauctionrooms.com and easyliveauction.com