1916 Easter Rising flag fails to sell at New York auction
The Easter 1916 Irish flag that flew over the GPO during the Easter Rising failed to sell at an auction in New York on Tuesday when it was withdrawn at $400,000, a full $100,000 under its reserve price.
The green, white and yellow-gold Irish Tricolor was initially predicted to fetch up to $700,000, but on Tuesday it was quickly withdrawn when it failed to pass $400,000.
Bloomsbury in New York held the auction in conjunction with Whyte’s, Ireland’s premier auction house for Irish art and collectibles.
The flag was just one of many of the 70 Irish arts and artifacts on offer that did not sell on Tuesday at the auction house in Midtown Manhattan.
The focal point of the auction was the historic Irish Tricolor that flew defiantly over Dublin’s General Post Office (GPO) in the 1916 Rising. The sale attracted many well-heeled bidders to the Bloomsbury Auction House on West 48th Street on Tuesday morning.
But to the surprise of many, the majority of the listed items did not often reach their projected price ranges.
An early precursor to the eventual green, white and orange flag, the GPO flag has a dramatic history worthy of its importance to Irish independence that seemed certain to excite the curiosity and interest of likely bidders both public and private.
Made of Irish linen, the Irish flag measured 29 by 63 inches. Its historic importance was clear to anyone who looked at it.
Although prior to the auction many observers felt assured that representatives of the Irish government would make a bid for the flag to ensure it remained in Irish hands, Ian Whyte, the director of Whyte’s Fine Art Auctioneers who curated the auction, told the Irish Voice he was quite certain the Irish government would not participate.
“The Irish government will not be bidding on the flag, I’m certain of that,” Whyte told the Irish Voice. “At a time when the country is in a deep recession, when civil servants are taking pay cuts and schools are being closed, they cannot be seen to be making a commitment of cash on an item in this price range.”
Bloomsbury’s sale catalogue notes that the flag, which is framed behind glass, is accompanied by a note from Dr. George Saint George (who owned the flag until 1922) reading, “Captured by British Troops at GPO Dublin, April 1916 and given to Dr. George Saint George by an old war veteran, Sergeant Davis.”
The flag is the only recorded full sized Tricolor of the 1916 Rising in existence and of the utmost rarity, as it was captured from the headquarters of the short-lived Irish Republic founded by Patrick Pearse and his Republican comrades, making it an icon of immense significance in the history of the Irish revolution.
But as it turned out the flag failed to achieve its target sale price on the day and was withdrawn from auction.
That does not imply it will not sell within the next few days, however. Bidders who chose to protect their privacy by making their bids by telephone or the internet expressed interest in the historic Irish flag, and representatives at the auction expressed some confidence that it could sell behind the scenes in a private bidding scenario within the next few days.
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