Photo-sleuthing – “Spiegel im Spiegel”


This is a Photosleuth Friday story provided by my friend, Alex. If ever you hear anything about the lost painting, do let me know.

Raymond Saville Conolly de Montmorency Lecky Browne Lecky of Ecclesville (1881-1961) was a very rich man. Enjoying a substantial income from his family estate in Northern Ireland, he pursued a career in acting and music, donating the money raised to a variety of good causes.

Raymond had a beautiful cousin, Amy Eccles. After the death of their parents, she and her two younger sisters had been brought up by Raymond’s parents at Ecclesville, Co. Tyrone in Northern Ireland. In 1893, Amy married Captain John Knox McClintock of Seskinore. It was probably on honeymoon in Italy that Amy had her portrait painted by Giovanni Costa.

Amy Eccles

Amy and John initially lived at Ecclesville but later moved to his estate at Seskinore which bordered on Ecclesville. An inventory of Seskinore in 1914 records the Costa painting, valued at £40, hanging in the music room. The marriage of John and Amy, however, foundered in 1918/19. The Captain returning home unexpectedly, found his wife in flagrante with a man from Omagh. Armed with a horse whip, he chased the bounder from the premises and subsequently threw Amy out the house.

Amy and their only child, ‘Leila’ McClintock went to stay with Raymond at Ecclesville for a while, before moving to Surrey around 1921/23. It is highly likely that John wanted his wife’s image out the house and Amy herself probably did not want a reminder of her Italian honeymoon, so the Giovanni Costa portrait ended up hanging on the wall of Raymond’s house at Ecclesville.

Leila McClintock

After his death in 1961, the family house was bequeathed to the government of Northern Ireland. The treasure trove of paintings, antiques, silver, jewellery etc., amassed by successive generations of the Eccles family, was sold at auction in the family home by auctioneers John Ross of Belfast.

Raymond had been anxious that the Giovanni Costa portrait should be returned to Amy’s only family after his death. In his will, he instructed his executors “To hand over to the Dean and Chapter of Londonderry Cathedral all my family portraits (except the portrait of Mrs McClintock which I hereby bequeath to her grand daughter who is my second cousin.)”

Mirror image of Amy’s portrait

The portrait however disappeared and has still not been traced. An image of it, hanging on the wall at Seskinore opposite a painting of John McClintock and reflected in the mirror, has been preserved in a picture in the family photograph album, held by a cousin of Amy’s grand daughter. This is the sole surviving copy of the portrait. And Amy’s grand daughter would like the painting back.

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