Sheppard's had another stroke of Chinese good fortune this week as the Durrow, Co Laois auctioneers held its first auction since last month's cancelled sale of the Jackie Kennedy letters.
On Tuesday morning, the three-day event got off to a dramatic start when an antique Chinese cloisonné (enamelled) bronze guang – a type of decorative ewer used for pouring rice wine at ritual banquets – sold for €250,000, 10 times the estimate (€20,000-€30,000).
The guang measures just 38cm high. The buyer was an antiques dealer bidding by telephone from London. The result is the latest example of Chinese antiques, which are notoriously difficult to value, fetching enormous sums at auction.
In November 2012, Sheppard’s sold a matchbox-size white jade seal, used to stamp documents in imperial China. It had a top pre-sale estimate of €6,000 but sold on the day for €630,000. That was a record price for an item of decorative art sold at auction in Ireland.
In February this year, a blue-and- white 18th-century “bottle vase”, made in China during the reign of the Emperor Qianlong, made €170,000, more than 60 times the estimate.
Also on Tuesday, a 6.54 ct. diamond and platinum ring which auctioneer Michael Sheppard in his sales patter from the podium said “would cost around€170,000 to buy new in Grafton Street” made €87,000 (€30,000-€50,000).
China figured again on the second day of the sale, an evening auction called Five Centuries of Fine Art.
An oil painting dated 1830, by an unknown artist, of a 19th-century Chinese village, sold for €36,000 (€30,000- €50,000). A 1920s painting of a female nude, titled Le Modèle, by a leading French artist André Derain, made €120,000 (€150,000-€250,000).
There was plenty of interest in a collection of ecclesiastical portraits consigned by the former seminary
in Drumcondra, Dublin. The top price, €14,000, was achieved for Sir John Lavery’s painting of Cardinal Patrick Joseph Hayes of New York (€8,000- €12,000).
a painting attributed to 18th-century Neapolitan painter Francesco de Mura, made €10,000 (€7,000-€10,000).
Separately, a 15th-century Flemish altarpiece, found by Piercetown, Co Wexford parish priest Fr John O'Reilly, made €40,000. This was considerably below the estimate (€80,000-€120,000) but Fr O'Reilly was "happy" with the unexpected windfall for his parishioners.
Sheppard’s said it was very difficult to value such a unique item. The altarpiece was bought by a bidder in Belgium and, so, is going home.
The final day of the sale was devoted to rare books, manuscripts and maps. An early 16th-century German bible, printed in Nuremberg in 1518, sold for €2,800 (€1,000-€1,500). But a 15th-century Book Of Hours from the library at All Hallows, estimated at €40,000-€60,000, failed to sell.
Overall, Sheppard’s said that 79 per cent of the more than 1,500 lots had sold.