A pair of 18th-century tables formerly owned by Sir Anthony O'Reilly was the top lot at Mealy's auction in the Long Man of Kilfane near Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, on October 5th.
The console tables, lot 118, made €145,000 – 10 times the estimate of €10,000-€15,000. Mealy’s said they bought by a “trade buyer” following a bidding battle involving several dealers on the telephone from London. The “rouge” marble-top tables had been catalogued as “an extremely fine rare pair of 18th-century carved, painted and parcel gilt console tables, probably Italian”. There was speculation among some auction-goers that the tables had once been in Burlington House on Piccadilly in London (once a private house, now home to the Royal Academy) but Mealy’s said this could not be confirmed.
They had been consigned to the auction from Castlemartin House in Co Kildare, the former home of Sir Anthony O'Reilly, by officials acting on the instructions of the Supreme Court in the Bahamas where he was declared bankrupt last year.
The auction was a mix of lots from Castlemartin House, from Kilfane House, Co Kilkenny, and items consigned by other unnamed clients. Among other top lots from the O’Reilly collection were: lot 521, a pair of 18th-century carved giltwood open armchairs, described as “exhibited at the Franco-British exhibition of 1908” that made €30,000 – six times the top estimate (€3,000-€5,000): lot 381, his “William IV period Irish mahogany dining table” that made €30,000 (€20,000-€30,000); lot 470, a Bechstein boudoir grand piano, €5,700 (€2,000-€3,000); and lot 312, a taxidermy Indian tiger head, €1,000 (€500-€700).
After the sale, George Gerard Mealy said that the "strong and documented provenance" had been "a very significant but intangible factor in determining the prices realised". He also noted an increase in demand for antique furniture, "a market which appears to finally be on the rise after a long hiatus" .
Overall, 87 per cent of lots sold for a total hammer price of €730,000.
Mealy’s said the residue from the O’Reilly collection would be sold at its next auction in late November.