Bronze boars and interesting paintings at Coolattin sale

Sheppard’s to hold two-day house and garden auction in Co Wicklow’s Coolattin House

Country house auctions always attract a crowd and Sheppard's expects over 3,000 people at this week's big bash in Coolattin House near Shillelagh, Co Wicklow where viewing begins today and continues until Monday evening. The two-day auction takes place there on Tuesday and Wednesday (June 27th and 28th).

Coolattin is a classic Irish country house and was formerly home to the earls of Fitzwilliam. But its heyday as a home to the Anglo-Irish aristocracy ended in 1975 with the death of Olive, Countess Fitzwilliam when the house and its contents were sold.

Today, it is owned by the local golf club and the house, although in good condition, is empty. For the second consecutive year, Sheppard’s has hired it as a venue to showcase a huge array of art and antiques consigned by private clients.

Philip Sheppard said "a sale like this breathes life back into a house that's been empty for years and the lots in the auction are displayed to mirror its former splendour".


The catalogue – as usual with Sheppard’s – is intriguingly democratic and frustratingly short on detail. Pretty much every lot is allocated the same space – whether estimated in tens or tens of thousands of euro. There’s just the briefest description of each item so prospective bidders really need to attend the viewing and do their homework.

The top lot – in terms of price – is lot 1,217, a pair of 19th-century carved giltwood console tables, each with a rectangular veined green marble top and carved apron featuring a lion mask, estimated at €40,000-€60,000. The least expensive is lot 1,334 – a pair of Edwardian brass door handles estimated at just €30-€50 – which gets just as much space in the catalogue.

Sheppard said the antiques market, like the wider economy, is in good shape and that “people are spending again and there’s a resurgence of interest in period furniture especially from clients renovating Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian houses in Dublin and around the country”. Echoing recent comments from other auctioneers, he said “good period furniture continues to be undervalued”.

Among the furniture highlights are: lot 1,035, a 19th-century desk described as “Ormolu mounted kingwood and parquetry bureau plat”, (€30,000-€40,000); and, lot 628, a 19th-century satinwood and marquetry “Carlton House” desk (€15,000-€25,000).

For outdoors, there’s a big selection of cast-iron garden furniture, sun-dials, stone troughs and birdbaths, including lot 779, “a very unusual 18th-century Irish lead bird bath (€800-€1,200). Garden sculpture includes lot 687, a life-size, Portland stone seated wild boar (€2,500-€3,500); while lot 738, is a bronze life-size figure of a wild boar standing (€1,000-€1,500); and, rather more expensive, a life-size bronze of a stag (€4,000-€6,000).

Dog lovers might prefer lot 757, a pair of large Portland stone dogs (€2,500-€3,500) or lot 764, a pair of French, cast-iron seated hounds (€1,500-€2,500).


For those who prefer “real” animals, albeit preserved, stuffed and mounted, there’s an interesting selection of taxidermy on day two of the sale including lot 831, a life-size mountain goat (€3,000-€5,000); lot 835, a “cased barn owl” (€300-€500); and, a bargain-basement tortoise (€50-€80).

Among the paintings, lot 397 is described as "English school" (which simply means the artist is unknown but assumed to be English) titled Mediaeval Narrative Scene, an oil-on-canvas in a gilded frame estimated at €10,000-€15,000. Is it a bargain at this price? Sheppard's said this "large, beautifully-painted work is possibly Victorian but could be earlier".

There are paintings to suit all tastes, particularly admirers of Victorian art. There is also likely to be some interest in lot 193, Study of a Female Nude, an unframed oil-on-canvas "attributed to" Roderic O'Conor. Is it by him or not? The estimate is €2,000-€3,000. If it were definitely proven to be an O'Conor it could be worth a lot more.

Among a selection of antique walking sticks – probably of more interest to hipsters than gents with bad hips – striking examples include lot 161, a 19th-century walking cane with a handle that incorporates a double-ended, silver topped scent bottle, perfect for the dandy-about-town who needs a top-up dab of Neroli Portofino Acqua by Tom Ford before strutting into the Shelbourne Bar (€500-€700 ); and, lot 179, a 19th-century walking cane with a handle incorporating a mother-of-pearl opera glass – perfect for posing at the Electric Picnic (€200-€300).

Sheppard’s two-day auction: “Great Irish Country House Collections”, Tuesday and Wednesday (June 27th & 28th). Entry to the viewing and auction is by catalogue which costs €20 and admits two. To find Shillelagh take Exit 4 (Carlow North) on the M9 or exit 16 from the M11 (Wicklow North). The distance from Dublin is 112km.