Russborough House is a Palladian mansion nestled beside Blessington Lakes in County Wicklow. Built in the mid-1700’s, it’s reputed to be the largest house in Ireland.

Russborough House in Ireland has seen robberies and financial problemsIt’s provenance is certainly interesting. The family of the original owner – the Earl of Milltown – held ownership the stately home from 1755 all the way up to 1931. Then, after changing owners a few times, it was bought by Alfred Biet in 1952.

Big Time Art
Alfred Beit had a truly spectacular art collection. Goyas, Vermeers, Rubens, Gansboroughs and others form a “who’s who” of old masters in the house.

But Russborough is a troubled institution. It’s recent history includes four massive art robberies that took place between 1974 and 2002. On all four occasions, it seems that security in the stately but isolated mansion were somewhat lax, allowing burglars to take their time in selecting the best pieces to steal.

Funny thing is, many of the stolen paintings found their way back to Russborough, sparking rumors that some group had a “back room deal” to take the art, fence it and then return it — making money but never facing legal sanctions. The culprit most often suggested is the IRA. In at least two of the robberies, known leaders of the IRA have been named as major suspects.

Nice Art, But The Walls Are Crumbling
Fast forward to 2015, and Russborough has a new problem. The house is crumbling and the charitable trust that manages it is not adequately funded. The result: Christie’s on London is in the process of executing an auction of some top pieces to help bolster Russborough’s financial fortunes. Among the pieces to be sold: A Rubens from the 1600’s, reputed to be the most valuable “old master” painting on the world art market.

Hopefully the sale will help Russborough upgrade it’s plant, and perhaps it’s security systems.

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