Soup for a lady in a €195,000 bowl


BIDDERS FROM around the world spent over £3.4 million (€4.2 million) buying 91 items from Mount Congreve house, Kilmeaden, Co Waterford which went under the hammer at Christie’s saleroom in St James’s, London on May 23rd.

The items of silver, furniture, porcelain and paintings – many with impeccable aristocratic provenance – had been collected by Ambrose Congreve, the millionaire businessman owner of the house, who died last year aged 104.

The highest price was achieved for a single piece of silver, which sold for £343,250 – almost three times the highest estimate.

The 61cm high epergne (table centrepiece), in the shape of a pagoda and made in London in 1763, was the subject of intense bidding.

It is known as the ‘Hampden Epergne’ as it was once owned by Viscount Hampden.

A pair of marble-top side tables, designed by Robert Adam, sold for £313,250 and an identical sum was paid for a 2m-tall Georgian mirror. An 18th century French porcelain soup bowl, (above) described as a “Vincennes bleu celeste broth-bowl” had been estimated to sell for between £40,000 and £60,000 - despite suffering “slight flaking to gilding” and minor damage caused by chipping in three places. But an unnamed bidder bought it for £157,250 (€195,000).

The auctioneers said that the 15cm-high covered bowl on a porcelain stand, known in French as an écuelle, was made at a factory in Vincennes near Paris in 1755 and would have been used by an aristocratic French lady “in the bedroom or boudoir rather than at the dinner table” to eat soup or broth to sustain her through “the lengthy ceremony of the toilette”.

Christie’s and Mealy’s are jointly finalising preparations for the sale of further contents from Mount Congreve.

The two-day auction will take place in a marquee in the grounds of the house in west Waterford on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 10th and 11th. Viewing will take place the previous weekend.

Before his death, Mr Congreve had transferred Mount Congreve house and its world-renowned gardens to a trust, the ownership of which will eventually pass to the State.