Monday 18 December 2017

Treasures: Revolutionary Bullitts

Ireland's fine arts, antiques and collectables column

Boardman Robinson's 'Bolsheviks Marching (Russia 1917)' is estimated to sell between €800 and €1,200 this Sunday
Boardman Robinson's 'Bolsheviks Marching (Russia 1917)' is estimated to sell between €800 and €1,200 this Sunday
Chinese Tang Dynasty ceramic horse (est. €500 to €800).
A pair of diamond solitaire earrings of 2.27ct and 2.24ct d vs2, (est. €45,000 to €50,000)

Eleanor Flegg

The Oscar-winning film Reds (1981) tells the story of a radical American journalist, John Reed. Played by Warren Beatty, Reed becomes involved with the Communist revolution in Russia. The American socialite Louise Bryant (played by Diane Keating) is attracted by Reed's left-wing idealism. She leaves her husband and travels to Moscow where she and Reed witness the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Then it gets complicated.

Bryant and Reed were real-life characters and their story is every bit as romantic as the cinematic version. There's an interesting memento of their Russian adventure coming up for auction at Adam's At Home sale, which takes place this Sunday, 18 June. The gouache painting, Bolsheviks Marching (Russia 1917), is the work of Boardman Robinson (1876-1952), a Canadian-American illustrator who travelled through Russia and Eastern Europe with Reed during the First World War. The painting comes from the collection of Bryant's daughter, Anne Moen Bullitt (1924-2007), and is estimated to sell between €800 and €1,200.

Louise Bryant remarried after Reed's death but lost custody of her daughter, Anne, following a scandalous lesbian affair. Bryant died in 1936 and her address book, now at Yale University, includes contact details for Lenin, Trotsky, Marcel Duchamp, Anita Loos, Brancusi and Helen Keller.

The child, known as "Little Anne Bullit" was brought up by her father, William Bullit, on the diplomatic circuit. William Bullitt was psychoanalysed by Freud who reportedly asked Anne if she loved her father. "My father is god," the child replied. Freud was chuffed. His oedipal theories confirmed at last! "That child is very articulate," he commented. In 1933, Bullitt became the first US ambassador to the Soviet Union.

Anne Bullitt's life is worthy of a film in its own right. She was a racehorse trainer, an heiress, and an international style icon with a famously tiny waist. She had four husbands, none of them very satisfactory. In the 1950s, she moved to Palmerstown House, County Kildare, and became the first woman in Ireland to hold a racehorse trainers' license. She was also a notable breeder of thoroughbreds.

For all its glamour, Bullit's life does not sound especially happy. She died a sad and lonely death in 2007 and, since then, her belongings have caused some excitement on the auction circuit. Her clothes, once described as "an amazing collection from the golden age of couture," were the most valuable. In December 2007, a diamond Cartier necklace (c.1955) sold at Bonhams in London for £602,400 (€690,588).

Chinese Tang Dynasty ceramic horse (est. €500 to €800).

The sale at Adam's also includes some more modest pieces from the Bullitt collection, among them a Chinese Tang Dynasty ceramic horse (pictured above, est. €500 to €800).

Adam's At Home sale takes place this Sunday, 18 June at 12 noon, see

In the Salerooms


A pair of diamond solitaire earrings of 2.27ct and 2.24ct d vs2, (est. €45,000 to €50,000)

The Girl's Best Friend leads the posse at O'Reilly's Auction of Fine Jewellery, Watches & Silver, which takes place at 126 Francis Street, Dublin 8, on Wednesday 21 June, beginning at 1pm. Diamonds due to go under the hammer include a pair of diamond solitaire earrings of 2.27ct and 2.24ct d vs2, (pictured above, est. €45,000 to €50,000); a three stone diamond ring, mounted in platinum, with three certificates stating the diamonds to be 4.20ct in total (est. €25,000 to €26,000); and a diamond solitaire ring with an old European brilliant cut diamond of approx 3.39ct mounted in 18ct yellow and white gold (est. €26,000 to €28,000). See

City Auction Rooms

Amid an array of more conventional antiques, a car catalogued as a "Vintage Model Y Baby Ford Prefect 1939" is up for auction in City Auction Rooms, Georges Quay, Waterford on Monday 19 June at 10.30am. The vintage vehicle is estimated to sell for between €5,000 and €7,000. The sale also includes a cast iron cherub garden urn/fountain (est. €500 to €700); a fine William IV mahogany dining table (est. €3,000 to €4,500); and a silver sauce boat with agricultural scenes made by Alwright and Marshall of Dublin in 1966 (€280 to €350). There will also be paintings, jewellery, clocks, carpets and crystal. See


Bargain hunters, hoteliers and landlords take note that Matthews' Annual No Reserve Clearance Auction will take place in The Transport Museum at The Millhouse, Slane, County Meath this Sunday, 18 June at 1.30pm. The auction will include antique and modern furniture, gilt mirrors, garden statues, rugs, paintings, prints and collectibles. It will be followed, on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 June, by a two-day sale of 30,000 antiquarian books. See

Morgan O'Driscoll

With prices for William Scott's paintings rocketing skyward, it will be interesting to see how his prints perform. One of these, Blue Abstract (1972), a signed and numbered silkscreen print, is for sale as part of Morgan O'Driscoll's current Irish Art Online Auction. It carries an estimate of €1,500 to €2,000. Other works of interest include a Dickensian schoolroom scene, Kept In by Erskine Nicol (1825-1904) (est. €6,000 to €8,000) and Women of Belfast, a watercolour and ink on paper by William Conor (1881-1968) est. (€3,000 to €5,000). The sale also includes works by Louis Le Brocquy, Patrick Collins, and a sculpture, Child and Mother Walking (1998), by Melanie Le Brocquy (b.1919). The auction continues until this Monday, 19 June, with bidding concluding between 6.30pm and 9.30pm. See

Antiques and vintage Fairs

This Sunday, 18 June, Vintage Ireland will launch their inaugural Kilkenny Antiques and Vintage Fair at the River Court Hotel, Kilkenny, from 11:30am to 6pm. Expect at least 30 specialist traders in rare books, coins, banknotes, eclectic collectibles along with antique and vintage jewellery, fashion and accessories. Admission is €3.50, see Also this Sunday, Hibernian Antique Fairs will run their Kerry Fair in the Dromhall Hotel, Killarney, from 11am to 6pm.

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