A mid-17th century joined oak chest from the collection of John Butler Yeats
A mid-17th century joined oak chest from the collection of John Butler Yeats

A mid-17th century joined oak chest from the collection of John Butler Yeats

1650 to 1680 United Kingdom

Offered by Lucy Johnson

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The single plank top faced with a moulded edge and with a later iron hasp. The interior with a till and replaced hinges. The front with crisply carved, gadrooned frieze retaining its original iron lockplate above three panels separated by moulded uprights with punched decoration in the centre. Standing on stile feet with a sliced repair to the front feet. The sides plain.

This is a transitional piece demonstrated by the use of ends which are traditionally found on 16th and early 17th century boarded chests, combined with a characteristic mid-17th century three panelled front with gadrooning and a top faced with moulded edges.
PROVENANCE : The artist John Butler Yeats (1839-1922) and thence by descent. John Butler Yeats was one of Ireland’s finest portrait painters and during a long and productive lifetime, painted many of the leading figures of the Irish Renaissance. Among these were his famous sons, Jack B. Yeats, and the poet William Butler Yeats and writers such as Lady Gregory, AE and Padraic Column as well as the original members of the Abbey Theatre Company.

The son of a Protestant clergyman from Sligo, John Yeats studied Law at Trinity College Dublin and graduated at the age of twenty-three with honours and a prize in Political Economy. The following year he married Susan Pollexfen, the daughter of a Sligo ship owner, whose family originated in Cornwall. Soon after their marriage, Yeats began to study for the Irish Bar, to which he was called in 1866. But his efforts to earn a living in this field proved difficult and he decided to become a professional painter instead.

In 1867 he enrolled at London’s famous Heatherly Art School. He soon gathered a wide circle of friends around him, including artist J.T. Nettleship, George Wilson, and Edwin Ellis all of whom espoused Pre-Raphaelite ideals and with whom he formed a brotherhood devoted to the same. In 1872 Yeats began to work in earnest as a portrait painter. He and his family settled in Howth in 1880 and he began to show regularly at the RHA. During this time he painted portraits and subject pictures which often featured young children.

In 1887 he returned to London, taking up residence at Bedford Park and gave up oil painting for some years in favour of charcoal and pencil. He returned to painting in oils in 1897 around the time of his activity as a visiting teacher at May Manning’s studio in Dublin. This renewed interest in Dublin’s artistic life prompted his return in 1901. In that year he showed forty-three works in a joint exhibition with Nathaniel Hone, as a result of which he received an important commission from Hugh Lane to paint portraits of prominent Irishmen such as John O’Leary, George Moore, John Redmond and others. Yeats never finished the commission, painting only characters in which he took an interest, and so William Orpen completed the task. He went to New York in 1908 and remained there for the rest of his life.

His most famous portraits are those painted in Dublin between 1901 and 1908 where he surpassed his contemporaries with his originality of style and his sensitive interpretations. Dr James White has written: “ All his life he was engaged in an encounter with the personality of the sitter. He knew exactly what he wanted to do. It was to capture the moment of humanity in a smile, to enlarge experience by showing us a living being in a pencil sketch or an oil sketch”.
Dimensions
Height 68.00 cm (26.77 inches)
Width 123.00 cm (48.43 inches)
Depth 46.50 cm (18.31 inches)
Lucy Johnson

Lucy Johnson
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