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The 200-lot Yeats section of the November 14 auction, including paintings and sketches by family patriarch  John Butler Yeats (1839-1922), was held at Fonsie Mealy’s saleroom in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.

Titled The Yeats Family Collection – the Final Chapter, Fonsie Mealy’s sale follows Sotheby’s sale in October of the main effects of the Yeats family, including paintings by Yeats’ brother, Jack B Yeats, and WB Yeats’ own writing desk. 

The gilt-framed pince-nez glasses are instantly recognisable as part of WB Yeats’ distinctive look captured in many photographs and paintings. 

Young WB Yeats

The glasses were not the top-selling Yeats lot on November 14, however: a pen-and-ink drawing of a young, bearded WB Yeats by his father, dated 1886, was estimated at €4000-6000 but was hammered down at €21,000.

Many other Yeats items sold at multiple-estimate. A small box of tarot cards, for instance, was estimated at €450-650 but sold for €4800.

Musical instruments did well, including the Yeats family harp which fetched €11,000 against a €1500-2000 estimate.

The Yeats Family Collection has netted nearly €6m in total for the contents of the former family home, in Dalkey, Co Dublin, for the surviving members of the clan, now all living outside Ireland.  

The sale of so many artefacts belonging to what Ireland considers its most significant artistic family caused controversy in the country ahead of the Sotheby’s auction.