Jonathan Swift portrait sells for €234,000 at Howth Castle Auction

First day of auction exceeds expectations with large international interest

An 18th-century portrait of writer Jonathan Swift was sold to an Irish buyer on the first day of the Howth Castle Auction.

The auction of the contents of Howth Castle exceeded expectations as the majority of items surpassed their guide prices, due to keen international interest.

The portrait of the Gulliver's Travels author sold for €234,000, and to the relief of many observers, say the auction's organisers, will remain on the island of Ireland. The painting by Irish artist Francis Bindon dates back to 1735.

Other Irish artworks that exceeded estimated prices include Roderic O’Conor’s Bull by Moonlight, which sold for €50,000, and a carved depiction of the legend of Grace O’Malley, the pirate, which sold for €25,000. A “historically significant” Bird’s Eye View of Howth sold for €26,000.


Pieces of Irish furniture were also under the hammer on Wednesday. A pair of giltwood and gesso side tables sold for €168,000, while a pair of 18th-century carved giltwood mirrors were bought for €106,000.

Other note-worthy sales included a clock once owned by Marie Antoinnette for €28,000 and a pair of chairs used by Queen Victoria on a visit to Howth Castle for €13,000.

The auction continues on Thursday and includes sales such as a mourning dress worn by Queen Victoria and the 1847 Curragh Whip Cup. Items from the rare military memorabilia section are also being sold, including the mythical Great Sword of Howth.