Art and antiques market springs to life

Strong first quarter ends with auction at Mealy’s described as ‘the best in ages’

The first quarter of 2014 has ended and Irish fine art and antiques auctioneers have a spring in their step. The first big art auctions of the year saw three-quarters of lots finding buyers at Adam’s, de Veres and Whyte’s, and an increase in online bidding from Ireland and overseas. The biggest auction – a three-day event at Sheppard’s – achieved the highest price for a single lot when an 18th-century Chinese vase sold for €170,000.

The quarter ended with Mealy's two-day auction sale on March 25th and 26th which, they said, was "the best in ages". Auctioneer George Gerard Mealy said there was "a huge crowd, probably double the usual attendance".

Almost 1,300 lots went under the hammer and 75 per cent sold for a total of €400,000. He noted “a buzz and an atmosphere around that we have not seen over the last few years” and was “delighted to see the bullish market for antiques returning”.

The sale, titled Irish Estates and Private Collections, included some 200 items from the Wynne family of Glendalough, Co Wicklow (founders of Avoca Handweavers). From the eclectic Wynne collection, a Victorian Irish silver claret jug, won by EN Wynne in the Dublin Rifle Club Leinster Cup in 1888, sold for €2,500 (€1,500-€2,500).


There was very keen interest in a red leather-bound journal, a diary and almanac for the year 1732, kept by James Eckersall, "Clerk of the Kitchin to His Majesty St James's", which made €2,300, more than three times the top estimate (€400-€700).

A pair of 19th-century carved giltwood pier mirrors made €4,800 (€2,000-€3,000).
Apart from the Wynne collection, other highlights included a rare cathedral brass skeleton clock, made in the mid-19th century in Waterford by Mosley & Sons, which sold for €4,800, just below estimate (€5,000-€7,000), to a buyer in, appropriately, Waterford.

An Irish Georgian mahogany break-front secretaire library bookcase, probably made in Cork, sold for €3,600 (€2,000-€3,000). A Victorian rosewood centre table with a specimen marble top sold to an Italian bidder for €5,000 (€3,000-€4,000). A Georgian bronze sundial by David Moore of Randalstown, Co Antrim made €4,200, way above the estimate (€1,000-€1,500).

A Portrait of Sir Henry Brooke (a 19th-century Fermanagh aristocrat) attributed to Stephen Catterson Smith the Elder, made €9,500 (€5,000-€10,000).

The sleeper in the sale was Lot 270, a silver vinaigrette in a fitted case, made in Birmingham in 1836, which made €3,000, 10 times the estimate (€250-€350).

A vinaigrette is a small box with a hinged lid which opens to reveal a pierced grill, under which was stored a tiny sponge soaked in aromatic vinegar. Vinaigrettes were popular accessories for both men and women during the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly when travelling, and used to combat unpleasant smells in public places from the streets or whiffy fellow-travellers.