2018-03-27-2018-12-18 --- 2018-12-18 13:39:04--18
Hover to zoom in

LOT :57
Richard Doyle (1824 - 1883)
Pied Piper of Hamelin
Watercolour, 51 x 77cm (20 x 30¼")
Estimate EUR : €10,000.00 - €15,000.00
Auction Date : 27-03-2018


Richard Doyle (1824 - 1883)
Pied Piper of Hamelin
Watercolour, 51 x 77cm (20 x 30¼")

Exhibited: The works of Thomas Gainsborough, R.A., and a collection of drawings by the late Richard Doyle, The Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1885, no. 287 in the catalogue, lent by A. H Christie, esq of East Runton, Norfolk.


From an early age Richard Doyle or Dickie Doyle as he was affectionately known, showed a natural ability for creating original and humorous designs. A consummate draughtsman, during his teenage years he kept a manuscript journal, now housed in the Print department of the British Museum, which consists of 156 pages of pen and ink sketches. He developed a successful career as an book illustrator with William Thackeray declaring on the advent of a new translation of Brother Grimms fairytales The Fairy Ring in 1846, that he was the new master of the fairyland supplanting the artist George Cruikshank. (The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle by Russell Miller, 2010). Doyle also worked for many years as an illustrator for the satirical magazine Punch (1841 - 2002), designing their first cover and masthead and producing more than one thousand drawings during his seven years of employment.


A staunch Catholic all his life, his relationship with Punch came to a drastic end in 1850 when he resigned due to their hostility towards the current Pope. From this point onwards there is a significant shift in the trajectory of his artistic career. Although he continued to provide fantastical illustrations for books, such as his celebrated 'In Fairyland' (1869), by the mid-1870s, he had begun to experiment with larger scale works in watercolour, such as the present example. It is important to note he never had any formal training in the medium; these works were therefore technically experimental. This unconventional approach, lends itself to these mythological subjects in which he imbued them with a surreal or dreamlike quality. He exhibited in 1868 and 1871 with the RA and two years following his death in 1883, the Grosvenor Gallery in London exhibited a collection of his drawings in which The Pied Piper of Hamelin was included.


The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a particularly interesting subject to depict, as there are numerous contradictory endings to the story. The legend dates back to the Middle Ages, and tells the tale of people of Hamelin, Lower Saxony, whose city is suffering from a plague of rats. The Pied Piper is hired by the mayor to lure the rats away with his magical instrument, in return for payment. However, when he has accomplished his task, the mayor reneges on their agreement. It is at this point that the sequence of events becomes confused. In certain versions, the piper takes revenge on the town by returning and in the same manner and luring all of the children, bar three, from the town to the Weser River, to their death. In others, again he transfixes them with his music but leads them instead to the beautiful lands surrounding the Koppenberg Mountain. In this more pleasant account, once his debt has been paid he returns all of the children unharmed.


It is difficult to ascertain from Doyles work which version of events he has decided to depict. What fate lies just beyond the frame for the innocent children of Hamelin? The two figures closest to the Piper seem to belie a more sinister turn of events, as they hold onto one another turning away from the music in fear. Their newfound understanding is visually contrasted with the hoards of smiling children behind them, blindly following the Piper. They have not yet crossed the towns threshold, here a physical as well as metaphorical space, that seems to illustrate the moment in our lives in which our childhood innocence is lost to the cruel adult world. This is further heightened by the anguish and torment of the parents in the distance calling in desperation after their lost children.


It could be argued that Doyles resignation from Punch, due to his dislike of their contemporary politics, made him outdated for the period in which he was working, a time of great turmoil and change in British and Irish society. His commitment to depicting the fantastical, through traditional forms of story telling, could be read as mere romantic folly. However, to a higher degree, mythology had been used for centuries by societies to make sense of the world in which they lived. Doyles work was concerned with awakening the viewer's imagination and challenging conventional ways of seeing by drawing their attention to the ambiguity of everyday experience. Contemporary European and Anglo-Irish literature was often a vital resource for artists of a Romantic tradition, which celebrated the natural over the rational. Worlds represented in the stories and poems in which Doyle illustrated were not ordered, they were filled with wonderful and at times, in the case of the town of Hamelin, terrifying phenomena.


Niamh Corcoran


Hammer Price : €10,000.00
  • en
  • fr
  • es
  • it
  • de
  • ru
  • zh-CN
  • el
  • nl


1. Estimates and Reserves

Estimates are shown below each lot in this sale. All amounts shown are in Euro. The figures shown are provided merely as a guide to prospective purchasers. They are approximate prices which are expected, are not definitive and are subject to revision. Reserves, if any, will not be any higher than the lower estimate.

2. Artists Resale Rights (Droit de Suite) is NOT payable by purchasers

3. Paddle Bidding (In Person)

All intending purchasers must register for a paddle number before the auction. Please allow time for registration. We recommend reading "Buying at Adam's" for first time buyers from our web site for more information. Please be aware that photographic identification by way of passport or driving licence will be required for new registrants, together with a secure valid credit card. This is for security purposes only. Potential purchasers are recommended to register on viewing days.

3. Buyer's Premium, Payment & Delivery

Buyers Premium:

The buyer shall pay the Auctioneer a commission at the rate of 20% on the Hammer Price plus VAT @ 23% (applied only to the commission) on all individual lots.

For example on a hammer price of €1,000, the Buyer's Premium amounts to €200 and the VAT on the Buyer's Premium amounts to €46.00, giving a total amount due of €1,246


All purchases must be paid for within two calendar days of the sale. Our payment terms are cash, banker's draft or cheque drawn on an Irish bank. Cheques will take a minimum of five working days to clear the bank, unless they have been vouched to our satisfaction prior to the sale, or you have a previous cheque payment history with Adam's. We also accept the following Credit Cards: Visa & Mastercard, subject to a credit card surcharge of 1.5% of the total invoice value, & American Express, subject to a surcharge of 3.65%. Debit cards, including Laser card payments, are not subject to a surcharge, however there are daily limits on Laser Card payments. Bank Transfer details are available on request. Please ensure that all bank charges are paid in addition to the invoice total, in order to avoid delays in release of the items. Goods will only be released upon clearance through the bank of all monies due.

Delivery takes place the day after the sale from 10.00am to 5.00pm. Uncollected lots may be subject to storage and handling charges unless specific arrangements have been made with the department. It is important to make contact with us in this regard to avoid any unnecessary charges. Adam's outsource all carriage & shipping requests to recommended third parties whom we deal with on a regular basis. This list is available upon request.

4. VAT Regulations

All lots are sold within the Auctioneer's VAT Margin Scheme unless advised to the contrary. Revenue Regulations require that the Buyer's Premium must be invoiced at a rate which is inclusive of VAT. This is not recoverable by any VAT registered buyer.

The VAT on buyer's premium may be zero rated for lots exported outside of the EU. This facility is available to non-residents and has strict guidelines in relation to availing of this scheme. Please contact a member of the accounts department to enquire further.

5. Absentee and Telephone Bids

We are happy to execute absentee or written bids for bidders who are unable to attend or can arrange for bidding to be conducted by telephone. Bid forms are available from our web site or you can leave absentee bids online by registering on Cancellation of bids must be confirmed 24 hours before the auction.

Bidding by telephone may be booked on lots with a minimum estimate of €500. Early booking is advisable as availability of lines cannot be guaranteed.

6. Condition Reports

The property is sold "as is" therefore imperfections/defects are not stated in the catalogue description. It is up to the intending purchaser to satisfy themselves as to the condition of a lot(s) before bidding. Condition reports may be requested in advance of sale subject to our terms of business. The report is an expression of opinion only and must not be treated as a statement of fact.

7. Conditions of Sale

All lots are being sold under the Conditions of Sale as printed in the sale catalogue and on display in the salerooms or via our web site