Austerity-free zone in Slane Castle

Adam’s ‘Country House Collections’ sale: Eve-of-Budget auction attracts high-spending bidders

There was no hint of austerity nor talk of Budget cuts as well-heeled patrons spent almost €2 million on fine art and antiques at Adam's two-day Country House Collections auction in Slane Castle, Co Meath, which ended on Monday afternoon.

The saleroom in the hallway of the stately home of Lord Henry Mount Charles, who attended the auction, was busy on both days and there was plenty of telephone and internet bidding. Some 80 per cent of lots sold and auctioneer James O’Halloran said it was “the most successful, and highest-grossing auction” in the five years that Adam’s has been holding the annual event in Slane and that “sensible estimates were well-rewarded”.

The sale included numerous items from three important Irish houses: Somerton, near Castleknock, Co Dublin; Ardbraccan, Navan, Co Meath; and Beaulieu, near Drogheda, Co Louth.

Antique furniture has been in the doldrums in recent years with subdued demand and lacklustre interest. But, as auctioneers repeatedly point out, pieces of exceptional quality can, and do, sell. The highest price was achieved for “an important George II Irish carved giltwood and gesso rectangular pier table, circa 1740” (a side table designed to stand against a wall between windows), which made €90,000 (estimate €80,000-€120,000).


There were good prices for many pieces of 18th-century furniture although the sale’s highest estimated lot, a pair of Irish carved mahogany, marble-topped tables, from the Laidlaw Collection, formerly of Somerton, failed to sell when bidding stalled at €112,000, well below the minimum estimate (€150,000-€200,000). But a pair of mahogany chairs, with similar provenance and date, made €23,000 (€5,000-€8,000).

A miniature Victorian red lacquered postbox, standing about 60cm high and designed for the hall table of a country house, attracted great interest and made €5,500 (€2,000-€3,000).

Among the paintings, a watercolour Clontarf Castle, Co Dublin, the only recorded Irish scene by renowned English artist Joseph Mallord William Turner, made €65,000, double its median estimate (€20,000-€40,000). A set of 25 prints titled A Picturesque and Descriptive view of the City of Dublin by James Malton (1761-1803) made €15,000 (€8,000-€12,000).

Watercolours of native and exotic birds by Mary Battersby, a Regency artist from Co Meath, which were greatly admired during the viewing, all sold, including A King Bird of Paradise which made €1,100 (€500-€800).

There was considerable surprise when Lot 591, a set of three dressing-table metal boxes, of French origin and from Beaulieu House, estimated at just €200-€400, sold for €8,600.

The silver Broughshane Cup, which commemorates the founding year of Broughshane Racecourse in Co Antrim in 1751, made €25,000 (€25,000-€35,000). A pair of modern silver table centrepieces, in the form of pheasants, made in London in 1985, by William Comyns and Sons, made €9,500 (€4,000-€6,000).

A Chinese white jade "Hero" vase, described as Qianlong period, made €38,000 (€10,000-€15,000).

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