Yes tonight Josepine: Empress’s bed could be yours for €2,000 plus
Fonsie Mealy’s sale features a bed thought to have been owned by Napoleon’s wife
Josephine’s Bed which was in the de Stacpoole family for years, and reputed to be owned by Empress Bonaparte €2,000-€3,000
The ornately carved “Josephine’s Bed” listed in the current Fonsie Mealy catalogue, poses many questions as to how a bed which reportedly was once owned by Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, will be auctioned at the Anner Hotel in Thurles this Tuesday.
The de Stacpoole family eventually returned to Ireland and settled in Co Galway
Tracing back through the history of the de Stacpoole family of Tobertynan House, where the bed resided for decades, offers an insight into an extraordinary Irish family and its links to French aristocracy.
The bed was last sold in 1962 when some of the contents of Tobertynan were auctioned, with the remaining pieces – mostly family portraits – now at Errisbeg House in Connemara, home to Richard, the seventh Duke de Stacpoole.
The de Stacpoole family tree traces back to Strongbow’s conquest of Ireland in the 12th century, but the French links begin with George de Stacpoole – born in Cork – who also had a residence on London’s Grosvenor Square.
In London de Stacpoole frequently entertained the exiled French king, Louis XVIII, and when Louis was restored to the French throne in 1814, de Stacpoole accompanied him to Paris, and was bestowed the title of marquis by the king.
Louis XVIII persuaded de Stacpoole to settle in Paris, where he subsequently purchased a fine residence at 237 Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré, in addition to Château de Montigny-Lencoup outside Paris, as a summer residence.
The family’s wealth and generosity is well documented, most notably when his son Richard donated £40,000 in the mid-1800s to rebuild the Benedictine basilica, St Paul’s without the Walls, which had been destroyed by a fire. The family repaired the main bridge over the Tiber, as well as restoring many Roman fountains, and the Abbey of St Wandrille in Normandy.
In recognition, Richard was given a papal dukedom by the pope, and this title, along with that of marquis bestowed by the French king, are still in use today.
The de Stacpoole family eventually returned to Ireland and settled in Co Galway and Tobertynan House in Co Meath, which sold in 2015. The papal links can be seen today at Errisbeg House, which the current duke leases out as a wedding venue.
Two papal chairs presented to the fourth duke by Pope Leo XII in 1825 sit under a portrait of de Stacpoole meeting the pope in his private chamber at that time. This has been documented in a recent book commissioned by the Vatican, where the portrait, which now hangs in Roundstone, also graces the front cover of a book on the life of Pope Leo XII.
“I spent most of my childhood and teenage years in Tobertynan,” recalls Richard de Stacpoole, “and we had a queen’s bedroom and a king’s bedroom with large ornate beds, and I remember the 1962 sale well.”
While the tale of how exactly the de Stacpoole family came to own Josephine’s bed in Paris is now confined to oral history, their seat in Paris, though since demolished, was a 12-bay three-storey residence in one of the most prestigious arrondissements, and beyond any doubt was frequented by French nobility.
The carved rosewood bed, lot 250, is listed with an estimate of €2,000-€3,000, and forms part of the sale by Fonsie Mealy of the contents of Glengarriff House, home of the late collectors John and Shirley Carrigan.
John Carrigan purchased the bed at the Tobertynan sale in 1962 along with other offerings that form part of the 600 lots this week.
A further bed, lot 275, a Regency period empire-style canopy day bed with gilt wood winged surmounts is listed at €800-€1,000, and other French offerings include a very old leather Louis Vuitton case, with the LV monogram on the clasp (lot 542, €600-€800) and a 19th-century French ormolu mantle clock, by Réne Frites (lot 329, €700-€1,100).
One of the highlights included in the 70 lots of silver, is a rare 18th-century Irish silver sauceboat with the maker’s mark PW, which auctioneer George Fonsie Mealy attributes to Peter Webb of Limerick (lot 117, €2,000– €3,000). And what he refers to as a “highly important and fine quality renaissance revival model of St George slaying the dragon” is, in the manner of François-Désiré Froment-Meurice(1802–1855), a silver gilt dragon on a bed of lapis lazuli (lot 172, €2,000-€3,000).
Chinese moon vases have been all the rage at auctions recently and this sale also has some Asian offerings, including lot 201, a lovely blue and white moon vase listed at €300-€400. To give an indication of the variety of lots on offer, the sale also includes a Salvador Dalí etching of The Cosmic Horseman (lot 239, €400-€600). See fonsiemealy.ie and errisbeghouse.ie