Friday, April 16, 2010

Sotheby's Irish Sale

[The Gold Turban by John Lavery]

An important portrait by Sir John Lavery (1856-1941) and undoubtedly the most important early masterpiece by Louis le Brocquy (b. 1916) will headline Sotheby’s annual Irish Sale in London on Thursday, 6 May 2010. Over 65 works from the sale are to be part of an extensive touring exhibition which starts at Lismore Castle Arts, Co. Waterford, on 17-18 April, and then continues in Dublin between 20-21 April and Belfast from 23-24 April.

The Gold Turban by Sir John Lavery (lot 30) is considered one of the finest portraits by the artist of his wife Hazel (1880-1935). Painted in 1929, it is the most significant late portrait of one of Lavery’s most glamorous subjects and his favourite model. Estimated at £400,000-600,000 (€441,000-665,000), the picture showcases the artist’s skilful handling of paint in the sitter’s headwear – rendered in shimmering tones – luminescent skin and slash of red lipstick. These elements are accentuated by the contrasting dark background and costume. Married in July 1909, the couple was renowned in London society, playing host to the Churchills, the Coopers, the Asquiths and many other glitterati of the period. Hazel Lavery was photographed by the renowned society photographer Cecil Beaton, the face of an early Pond’s Cold Cream advertising campaign and achieved present and posthumous fame as Kathleen ni Houlihan on Irish banknotes. Throughout her twenty-five year marriage, she posed for full-lengths, half-lengths, ovals and head studies, culminating in The Gold Turban. Following Lavery’s election to the Royal Academy in 1911, one of his early exhibits was a portrait of Hazel entitled The Silver Turban, which was succeeded by a calvacade of portraits noted for their colour harmonies, including Hazel in Black and Gold and Hazel in Rose and Gold. In the present work the ‘belle allure’ of the earlier portraits reaches an intensity not seen elsewhere in Lavery’s oeuvre. Swathed in fur, Lady Lavery glances to her side, her Uhlan-style headwear shadowing her eyes. With this work, Lavery demonstrated his ongoing formal and ‘artistic’ concerns, yet he also imparted to his wife a seductive, animated quality, something many of her portraits had not yet revealed. The Gold Turban will also grace the front cover of Kenneth McConkey’s monograph, Lavery, A Painter and his World, published by Atelier Books in April 2010.


Hels said...

What a fine portrait. I must admit to not knowing Lavery's work, but doesn't this particular portrait remind you of Rembrandt? The shimmering headgear and the contrasting dark background and costume conjure up, for example, Man in a Gold Helmet.

Hermes said...

Very much so, but what a wonderful portrait.