The auction house followed this up with a mixed-owner sale of 75 lots of Irish art. The Yeats sale, which ran to 224 lots, raised a total of £1.6m with 88% of lots selling on the day.
The auction was not without controversy, with cultural figures in Ireland voicing concern before the sale that important items relating to arguably the country’s leading artistic family would be lost to the nation.
In the event, the potentially most valuable lot in the sale – a cache of more than 130 letters from WB Yeats to his first lover, then lifelong friend and author Olivia Shakespear, estimated at £250,000-350,000 – failed to attract a single bid.
Instead the top lot was a late oil by Jack Butler Yeats (1871- 1957), one of six offered on the day. The Sunset belongs to you from 1951, pictured above left, recalls several of Yeats’ earlier romantic paintings in which he juxtaposes male and female figures. It sold just above hopes at £170,000.
Elsewhere in the sale, London dealer Philip Mould secured for stock a chalk portrait of WB Yeats by Italian artist Antonio Mancini (1852-1930). The 1907 study went over eight times its £8000-12,000 estimate before it was knocked down at £90,000.
The top-seller in the Irish art sale was a snow-covered Japanese-inspired landscape of Switzerland by John Lavery (1856-1941).
The Summit of the Jungfrau, pictured above, a 2ft 1in x 15in (64 x 38cm) oil on canvas, was painted in 1913 and included in the Royal Academy exhibition that same year. It is one of three views of the Jungfrau known to have been painted by the artist, one of which sold at Christie’s London for £55,000 in 1989.
Purchased by the family of the vendor at The Fine Art Society in London in 1984, it sold at Sotheby’s within estimate at £170,000.