Through the Salerooms is the third and final volume to be derived from the author’s doctoral dissertation of 1998, ‘The Development of Belfast as a Centre of Art 1760–1888’ (Queen’s University, Belfast). The first book, Art in Belfast 1760–1888: Art Lovers or Philistines? (2006) told the story of art in Belfast from its beginnings in the 1760s to the 1880s, whilst the second volume, Window to an Age: A Chronicle of Art in Belfast 1760–1888 (2016) contained details of artists’ movements, the contents of exhibitions held by art societies and art dealers and the identities of owners.
This third book completes the study of art in Belfast within the period, focussing upon a little-known aspect of the local art world: art auctions and the works on sale. As can be seen, the number of works passing through the salerooms was considerable. Whilst the majority were British paintings, there were also many Irish and European paintings and numerous Old Masters. Though the subject of auctions had been touched upon in the first book, this is the first extended examination of the topic.
The expansion of the art trade from the late 1830s saw the beginning of an important trend: dealers from outside Ireland sending collections to be auctioned in Belfast. This sending of works indicates that Belfast was regarded as a good place to sell, a fact hitherto unknown in the art history of the town.
With a section on auctioneers and dealers and an index of owners, the book is a valuable addition to the art and cultural history of Belfast in the nineteenth century.