Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sale to cash in on banknote beauty

By Dick Barton
Irish Independent
Wednesday April 14 2010

A PAINTING of the society beauty whose image appeared on Irish banknotes for more than 50 years is expected to fetch up to €665,000 at an auction next month.

'The Gold Turban' by John Lavery features his wife and most-frequent subject, Hazel, and it will go under the hammer at Sotheby's Irish Sale in London on May 6.

The sale will include Louis le Brocquy's seminal early masterpiece, 'Spanish Shawl', which was recently on loan to the National Gallery of Ireland and which has a guide price of up to €550,000.

Works by Jack B Yeats, Roderic O'Conor, Basil Blackshaw, Sean Scully, Edward Delaney and John Behan are also up for auction but it is Lavery's painting of his second wife that is likely to stir the public imagination.

Lady Lavery was born in Chicago, but came to prominence on this side of the Atlantic and has in the past been romantically linked with the legendary Michael Collins.

In 'Private History', a book that was written in 1960 by Derek Patmore -- a close friend of Lady Lavery -- the author maintained that Collins was "the great love" in Hazel Lavery's life.

But author Meda Ryan later refuted that in her 2006 book, 'Michael Collins and the Women who Spied for Ireland'.

"The IRA followed both Collins and Lady Lavery," she wrote.

"They did a thorough examination of them and they found nothing.

"If they had discovered they were having an affair, she would have been shot because they would have felt she was a double agent."

John Lavery's biographer has also dismissed the claims of an affair as "unsubstantiated speculation".


After the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, the Irish Free State government commissioned the Belfast-born artist to produce a female personification of Ireland for the new Irish banknotes and, not for the first or last time, he chose his glamorous wife as the subject.

Lady Lavery's image appeared on Irish banknotes from 1928 until the 1970s and then on the watermark of Irish banknotes until the introduction of the euro.

'The Gold Turban' is a different portrait but considered to be one of the finest portraits by Lavery of his wife.

If the oil painting does sell for €665,000 it will become Lavery's eighth most valuable work.

The current world record for a Lavery painting is almost €2m, the sum paid at Christie's in 1998 for 'The Bridge At Grez'.

- Dick Barton

Irish Independent

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