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Offaly may hold key to 30 year mystery

Story by Laura Ryder

Friday, 17th February, 2012 9:30am

Offaly may hold key to 30 year mystery

Sandra Olija is looking for information on a painting she bought in Offaly as a teenager.

A 46-year-old Dutch champagne importer who bought a painting at a Charleville Castle auction for just nine pounds when she was 14 is appealing for help from Offaly to solve the mystery of her favourite, but unsigned, painting. Even experts from Adams Fine Art Auctioneers and Valuers in Dublin have not been able to reveal the artist behind the painting, so now Sandra Olij suspects it may have been painted by a local amateur and is hoping to stir memories of the painting in Offaly in a bid to trace its roots.

Sandra's four-year long Irish adventure began in 1979, when her parents decided to move to Ireland with their five children and become farmers after falling in love with the country while on holiday here the previous year. The family lived in Rahan Lodge in Rahan for over a year, before moving to Daingean and later back to Holland after her father and brother became homesick for their home country. While living in Rahan, however, Sandra's family would often attend auctions in a bid to fill their enormous 24-room Georgian house. It was at one of these auctions in Charleville Castle, thought to have been held at some point between 1979 and 1981, that Sandra bought her mystery painting of a man with a hat.

"I bought it for nine pounds," she remembers. "I was 14, I think. We don't have a clue who painted it, but I've always loved it." Sandra's love for the painting isn't shared by her partner however, and as a result it's currently "hanging in a corner" in Sandra's home in the village of Oude neidorp in northern Holland.

"The painting has always intrigued me because it is not signed and I would love to know who painted it," she continued. "I asked a well known art dealer in Dublin, but they cannot place it. Then I thought maybe it was a local amateur. What I would like to ask from your newspaper is if there is a possibility to publish the painting and see if anyone recognises it."

If you recognise this painting or would like to pass on any details to Sandra Olij you can contact the Offaly Independent by emailing or calling 057 9305209.

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