Michael Collins letters to Kitty Kiernan at Sotheby’s in New York

Des O’Sullivan on an important and historic sale of primary sources for the Irish revolutionary period. 

The archive of material relating to the Easter Rising from the Maurice Neville Collection at Sotheby's, New York

IN one of his letters to to his fiancé Kitty Kiernan Kitty Kiernan, Michael Collins wrote with considerable prescience:

“Ireland will have cause to remember her present-day extremists. this was written on June 1, 1922, from London during the Treaty negotiations.

The letter is part of an extensive archive of Easter Rising material due to come up at Sotheby’s in New York on April 24. 

The couple were to have been married the following November. Just over two months later, Collins was shot dead at Beal na mBlath.

Letters from Michael Collins addressed to Miss Kitty Kiernan, Granard, Co Longford at Sotheby’s, New York.

Lot 89 in the sale of the Maurice Neville Collection of Modern Literature (Part III), relates to the Easter Rising and the Irish Rebellion.

It comprises 22 pamphlets and books, eight broadsides and handbills and about 28 autograph items from Dublin and London from 1910 to 1925.

There are two letters to Kitty Kiernan, dated March 31 and June 1, 1922 when Collins was part of the Irish delegation negotiating the Treaty.

In March he wrote: “We came to an agreement on certain things with Craig yesterday— I am not very sanguine about the future from any point of view.

“We have however secured release of all the prisoners.... but the news from Ireland is very bad and the “powers that be” here are getting very alarmed that there may be a bust-up at any moment.

This William Scott Still Life made €140,000 at hammer at de Vere’s to become the most expensive painting sold so far this year in Ireland.

“Were it not for the awful consequences I’d almost welcome it.... yet one has the responsibility. It would be cowardly to shirk from standing up to it.

“The whole business is casting a gloom over me and in spite of what is a big human hope I cannot keep thinking that as a people we are destined to go on dreaming, vainly hoping, striving to no purpose until we are all gone”.

On June I he reported to his fiancé:

“Things have got very much worse overnightand I am looking forward now to my last appointment with them.

“I’m returning tonight no matter what happens as I feel I can do no more good here. Ireland will have cause to remember her present day extremists.

“The whole thing is ghastly but I’ll tell you more about it when I see you. It was only after my scribble yesterday I heard about Joe McGuinness’s death.

“He is a great loss to us but apart from that I feel the personal loss more keenly. He was the one most responsible for the recent peace. It makes the present position all the more tragic”.

Jesus Wearing the Crown of Thorns by an unidentified artist made €120,000 over an estimate of €800 at James Adam on Sunday last.

Lot 89 contains a copy of the Proclamation, two copies of the Irish War News and letters and signatures of Charles Stewart Parnell, de Valera, Childers, McBride, WT Cosgrave, The O’Rahilly, Kevin O’Higgins, Desmond FitzGerald and others.

There is a souvenir programme of the funeral of O’Donovan Rossa to Glasnevin Cemetery in August 1915.

Eamon de Valera’s copy of Frank Gallagher’s: The Invisible Island: The History of Partition in Ireland, London, 1958 signed and dated May 3, 1958 by de Valera is estimated at $7,000-10,000.

Encouraging times for auctioneers

Irish art has had an encouraging few weeks, writes Des O’Sullivan.

‘The Park Pond’ by Frank McKelvey made a hammer price of €24,000 at Morgan O’Driscoll’s sale at the RDS on Monday evening.

THOUGH the market for Irish art remains patchy, it has been an encouraging couple of weeks for Irish art and antiques auctioneers.

Adam’s had a classical sleeper lot which sold for €120,000 over a top estimate of €800 at their interiors auction last Sunday; Morgan O’Driscoll’s small Paul Henry made a hammer price of €62,000 on Monday evening, and the William Scott still life which made €140,000 at de Vere’s last week was the most expensive painting sold so far in Ireland this year.

Jesus Wearing the Crown of Thorns, an oil on copper panel in an elaborate carved frame, was the subject of considerable bidding on the internet and on the telephone at Adam’s, particularly from Italy.

It was knocked down to an internet bidder for €120,000 after a five-minute bidding battle and will leave Ireland. The artist remains unknown and so far there is no official attribution.

The work, which had been in an institution, is at this stage assumed to be 17th century.

Earrings set to go for millions

These earrings are the most valuable to ever appear at auction.

The most valuable earrings ever to appear at auction are the brightly shining stars of Sotheby’s sale of magnificent jewels in Geneva on May 16. The diamond pair, one fancy vivid blue, the other fancy intense pink, are to be sold separately.

The 14.54 carat internally flawless Apollo Blue is estimated at US$38m-50m, the 16-carat VVS2 clarity Artemis Pink is estimated at US$12.5m-18m. 

David Bennett, world chair of Sotheby’s jewellery division said that these coloured stones are “enormously rare”, that each is wonderful in its own right and that “together they are breathtaking”.


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