From ancient Greece to antique Laois

An auction at a Georgian mansion in Co Laois has a neoclassical theme and is expected to realise more than €1 million

The world of ancient Greece may seem utterly remote from the perspective of the Slieve Bloom mountains in Co Laois but, just outside the village of Rosenallis, is a splendid Georgian mansion built in the neoclassical Greek Revival style.

Capard House is the spectacular setting for what promises to be the biggest fine art and antiques auction of the year. And among the highlights is, appropriately, a 19th-century painting, Lot 153, Neo-classical scene of Grecian girls swimming by English artist John Whitehead Walton. An oil-on-canvas, it measures 52cm by 75cm and is estimated at €3,000-€5,000.

This is the sort of mildly erotic image that both thrilled and scandalised the Victorians and epitomises their utter fascination with the worlds of ancient Greece and Rome.

It’s one of many classically inspired pieces in the auction. Others include Lot 10, a bronzed, reconstituted stone garden statue of David (after Michelangelo), at €800-€1,200; Lot 25, a bronze garden statue of the god Mercury, €5,000-€7,000; Lot 204, an indoor bronze sculpture of a centaur, €2,500-€3,500; and Lot 1, a 19th-century cast-iron garden urn on a pedestal, in the style of the Warwick Vase (the ancient Roman marble vase found in 18th-century Italy by Scottish antiquarian Gavin Hamilton and now in Glasgow’s Burrell Collection), €1,500-€2,500.

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The estate was recently sold by Dublin businessman John Farrington, who runs an antique jewellery business and is also a a well-known collector. He is downsizing after 25 years in the house, which he has filled with an array of treasures.

Sheppard’s will auction the contents of the house, on-site, and three days of viewing of 1,110 lots will take place from September 19th-21st, from 10am-5pm daily.

The two-day auction will take place at Capard House on September 22nd and 23rd. Entry to both viewing and auction is by catalogue only, which costs €30 and admits two adults.

Ploughing

Capard House is about 9km from Mountmellick, 20km from Portlaoise and 85km from Dublin via the M7. The auction coincides with the National Ploughing Championships, also taking place in Co Laois, and Sheppard’s, having consulted the Garda, advises motorists to exit the M7 at junction 18. Sheppard’s said there would be parking for up to 1,000 cars and catering facilities will be provided on site.

Is it worth the journey? Absolutely. The auction will be Sheppard’s “most important ever” and is expected to realise more than €1 million, according to the auction house.

Furniture includes Lot 75, an “Irish George III period three-pillar mahogany dining table” (€40,000-€60,000); Lot 639, a “William IV period mahogany-draped four-poster bed” (€15,000-€25,000); and Lot 640, “19th-century carved giltwood and gesso console tables” (€15,000-€25,000).

Most notable in a large selection of mirrors is Lot 54, “a monumental George III period carved giltwood framed mirror” measuring 260cm by 197cm (€15,000-€25,000); and Lot 279, “a large 19th-century giltwood and gesso console mirror” (€10,000-€15,000).

According to auctioneer Philip Sheppard, "Irish country houses [well, the Big House, any way] always had a French mantel clock" and among examples in the auction is Lot 147, a sumptuous late 18th-/ early 19th-century gilt bronze mantel clock inscribed: "Andre Pionet, Bronzier, Rue de Freses, Montmartre, No.10, Paris" (€3,000-€5,000).

The second day of the auction includes a selection of jewellery. Highlights include Lot 661, a dazzling 1950s ruby and diamond cocktail bracelet (€20,000-€30,000); Lot 676, “an important string of South Sea cultured pearls” (€25,000-€35,000); and Lot 667, an Art Deco sapphire and diamond brooch (estimated at €22,000-€28,000).

Unusual items

There’s something to appeal to almost every taste in this sale. Among the more unusual items are Lot 1066, an Art Deco fan “depicting a gentleman smoking a cigarette, helping a lady with her cloak” (€80-€120); Lot 436, “a very rare” antique silver spoon warmer (€300- €500); and Lot 856, a 19th-century French painting of

St Clare of Assisi

(€500-€800).

A number of quirky lots have low estimates, such as Lot 483, an antique cast-iron shoe-last, €20-€30; Lot 657, a “bowler hat, Lincoln Bennett & Company – trade label R.Tison, Dublin”, enclosed in a leather carrying case (€50-€80); and Lot 180, a 19th-century hunting horn in leather case (€50-€80).

To view the catalogue online or to order a printed catalogue, see sheppards.ie