A FAMOUS painting whose location remained a mystery for 17 years after it was stolen in an audacious art heist was yesterday unveiled to the public.
It is the first time in almost four decades that the painting, a Jack Yeats work from 1915, 'Bachelor's Walk, In Memory', was placed on public display.
And, there will be an added frisson of excitement for visitors to the National Gallery of Ireland as they learn its dramatic history.
In 1990, the painting was one of five works of art valued at IR£1m -- two by Yeats and three attributed to the Flemish painter Van Dyck -- that were stolen from Dunsany Castle in Co Meath.
The late Lady Sheila Dunsany, a renowned art collector who died in 1999, was in the house at the time when the paintings were stolen from three reception rooms.
Those present in the house heard nothing as the raiders gained entry by forcing the bars of a window on the ground floor. It was reported that there was no alarm system in operation at the time.
Delighted National Gallery of Ireland director Raymond Keaveney explained that the last time the painting was seen in public was in 1971 when it adorned the gallery's centenary exhibition of Yeats' works.
It then vanished in 1990 before it was finally recovered in London in 2007 after it was spotted in a promotional publication for Sotheby's auction house. The other paintings also resurfaced in the 1990s.
Mr Keaveney yesterday said they were delighted to accept the important painting on loan, adding the identity of the current owner would remain a private matter.
"It is extraordinary how paintings that are stolen find their way back," he said.
The painting depicts an incident in 1914, when British soldiers opened fire killing four civilians as they returned from having halted a large party of Irish Volunteers transporting a supply of arms landed at Howth.
Yeats is believed to have visited the scene the following day where he witnessed a woman leaving flowers and immediately drew a sketch.
- Louise Hogan