An advertisement, which appears on the back page of this month’s Catholic edition Intercom magazine, could well tickle the planned sale of a stained glass window from the workshop of the famous Irish artist Harry Clarke.
The advertisement in question concerns a private auction of a stained glass window of Saint-Pierre, from the Harry Clarke studios. Saint Peter was one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ and, as the first pope, is recognized as one of the early leaders of the church. It is by glass artist William Dowling (1907-1980) and shows the saint holding the gold and silver keys to heaven. The work, which measures 65 by 27 inches, is accompanied by an eight-page report written by Ruth Sheehy, as well as an original sketch by the artist.
Exceptionally, however, the sale, which is announced in Intercom, a pastoral and liturgical resource magazine published by Veritas Group, an agency of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, has certain restrictions. First, it states that “St. Peter must go to a suitable Catholic home” and “no merchant or agent may apply” to purchase the work.
Not only that, but whoever acquires the work must then gift St. Peter to a church or Catholic property – although they may have a new inscription placed at the base of the background.
This is an unusual request, given that discrimination in advertising is prohibited under equality legislation, as the Equal Status Acts 2000-2015 prohibit certain types of discrimination on 10 grounds, one of which is religion, “on the provision of goods and services”.
The sale is managed by Abbey Stained Glass Studios, who restored the work. According to the studio’s Ken Ryan, the stained glass, originally from Mill Hill Missionaries in Freshford, Co Kilkenny, “was sold to a private client years ago and is not clergy owned”.
According to the announcement, the stained glass work is to be sold through Abbey Stained Glass Studios. With a decision to be made by the end of March 2022, “barring prior sale”, the announcement also states that the “customer reserves the right to withdraw this auction window for any reason”, noting that the “new proposed Catholic house will be the most important”.
There is no indicative price on the works. Auctioneer Ian Whyte sold Our Lady of Lourdes, a stained glass window attributed to William Dowling, in 2010 for €36,000 – it was then estimated to be between €3,000 and €5,000. “But in this work Harry Clarke’s hand was very evident – both in the Virgin Mary and in the detailing,” says Whyte, who estimates St Peter is worth between €3,000 and €5,000.