Murnaghan Collection to draw Continental dealers


Many collectors will set aside today or tomorrow to view the Murnaghan Collection at 25 Upper Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin, before next Thursday's auction. The house itself was sold under the hammer on Wednesday for £1.8 million - a relative bargain in property terms given its prime location, size and the potential of its mews and rear parking. It may be that potential buyers were put off by the hype surrounding the sale of the house, which had been home to Mrs Alice Murnaghan for most of this century. Auctioneers George and Fonsie Mealy will be hoping that the publicity surrounding the sale of the contents in the Shelbourne hotel won't have the same effect on potential bidders.

Certainly, the sale has garnered a remarkable amount of publicity in Ireland and the UK, and there should be plenty of "sightseers" at the auction. However, the Mealys, who will conduct the auction jointly with Christies, also expect a strong contingent of Continental dealers, particularly Italians, who will be keen to repatriate some of the dozens of fine 16th-century and 17th-century Italian paintings in the Murnaghan collection. Not all of the paintings are masterpieces, however. Francis Murnaghan, a nephew of James Murnaghan, writes in the catalogue about how his uncle James "had a practice of buying in lots of three to deflect interest in any particular painting on which a dealer might wish to capitalise". This means that for every good painting there were two less interesting ones, although whether these are included in the collection is not known. At one level this is a sale for connoisseurs with very little of the less expensive furniture, objects and plain old bric-a-brac that one associates with important house-contents sale. However, viewers will not be disappointed by the atmosphere in this wonderful house.