Irish auctions go global


Irish auctions are no longer just local events. The internet is transforming the way art and antiques are being bought and sold, and the big Irish auctioneers have been upgrading their websites to adapt to the changing times. Most are now broadcasting their auctions live online via partner companies such as liveauctioneers.comand

Auction-goers – whether in Dublin or the provinces – now increasingly find themselves competing with unseen bidders online, and not only from the Irish diaspora. Auctioneers say collectors worldwide are now searching the web for items they want and are prepared to bid and buy online from anywhere in the world.

Following his art auction at the Clyde Court Hotel in Ballsbridge on Monday evening, auctioneer Morgan O’Driscoll said that 40 of the almost 200 paintings sold had gone to online bidders in England, the United States, Spain, Australia and Dubai. Meanwhile, Kildare Street-based fine-art auctioneers de Veres is currently holding its first “online only” art auction, with bidding due to end on Tuesday evening at 7pm. See deveres.iefor details.


Sheppard’s which is holding a three-day auction at its Durrow, Co Laois saleroom next week, said bidders from some 31 countries – from Australia to Ukraine – have already registered.

The family-run firm has established “a partnership with the Beijing-based live auction portal”, which means that Sheppard’s catalogue is published in Mandarin, and bidders in China can participate in the auction in their own language. Chinese – and other Asian collectors – have, in recent years, been big purchasers of oriental art and especially ceramics. But if they start to buy Western art and antiques, then Irish auctioneers could be in for a welcome and significant boost to business.

While online browsing and buying may represent the future, many collectors still prefer the colour – and occasional drama – of attending the traditional pre-sale viewing and the auction in person.

Three days of viewing at Sheppard’s get underway from 10am today and the three-day auction of more than 1,600 lots commences on Tuesday morning.

One of the highlights is a watercolour titled Ducks On A Pond At Kilmurry by Mildred Anne Butler, which has an estimate of €5,000-€8,000. Butler, who died in 1941, was renowned for paintings of the gardens surrounding her home, Kilmurry, near Thomastown in Co Kilkenny. Her patrons included Queen Mary (wife of King George V), who commissioned her to paint a miniature watercolour (of crows) which was hung in the elaborate dolls’ house still on display at Windsor Castle.

Among other items likely to attract interest: a 19th century ormolu and Sèvres porcelain-panelled mantel clock made by J. Vernet, Paris (€4,000-€6,000); and, an 18 ct. gold Patek Philippe ladies’ pocket watch dated Geneva, May 14th, 1900 (€500-€800).

Among numerous quirky items is an example of 19th century kitsch – a musical crystal decanter (€800-€1,200) – which plays a tinkling tune when lifted and, while originally designed to amuse guests, also comes in handy if your cleaning lady is helping herself to the sherry.

Day three of the sale is devoted to Asian art and, as always at Sheppard’s, there could be surprises. A large Chinese bronze Buddha (more than 2ft high), being sold “from a Dublin collection”, has an estimate of €20,000-€40,000. But there may well be a sleeper among the host of oriental porcelain, ivory and jade pieces.


Horses? “Well, that’s the Irish, isn’t it?” As a British supermarket chief remarked this week (admittedly in another context), the nation does have an inordinate interest in all matters equine – except on the plate. Admirers of equestrian art will certainly fancy a 19th-century painting going under the hammer at Adam’s Sunday Interiors Auction, on Sunday week, March 3rd .

Bloomsbury by John Frederick the elder (1795-1865) is an oil-on-canvas plaque that reads:, “Mr Robert Risdale’s Bloomsbury with Templeman up. Winner of the Derby 1839”. Simeon Templeman was a famous jockey. The estimate is €20,000-€25,000.

Also of interest is The Pimlico Cup – a silver trophy awarded to Elizabeth Arden (founder of the cosmetics company) for her horse Jewel Reward in 1957 at the Laurel Park Racecourse in Maryland, USA. The estimate is €1,000-€2,000.

Adam’s has also enhanced its website and said this auction – its first of 2013 – was attracting “a lot of interest” from prospective bidders worldwide especially for “smaller items which are easier to ship”.

Some 600 lots, including paintings, furniture, silver, porcelain, rugs, glass, books and various collectibles go on view from next Thursday morning (February 28th) at the saleroom, 26 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2.

There is already significant interest in some of the Oriental items in the sale, especially a pair of Chinese bowls, with “Jiaqing seal mark”, decorated with images of boys within a landscaped garden setting (estimate €6,000-€9,000); and, a collection of fascinating photographs of early 20th-century China brought home by a Dublin man who served with the Shanghai Municipal Police (€2,000-€3,000).

Kieran O’Boyle of Adam’s said the auction “should appeal to collectors or those hunting for decorative items for their home, or perhaps those who are looking for unique and interesting gifts.”

Beatrix Potter figurines and first-edition books have estimates from €50-€400. Fans of taxidermy won’t easily find a more impressive piece than Lot 259, a wonderful Victorian object “comprising of a collection of 35 exotic birds staged in a naturalistic setting and contained within an original glass dome case”. The estimate is €1,000-€1,500. They really don’t make ’em like that anymore.

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