ADAM'S annual decamp to the Co. Louth countryside and the gracious surroundings of Townley Hall is upon us again. This behemoth of a sale, with its 720 or so lots will return, albeit briefly, the wonderful Francis Johnson stately home to being a clothes horse of sorts for a stunning collection of Irish and English Georgian furniture, silver, paintings, collectors items and the usual array of country house ‘clobber’. It is without fear of contradiction the biggest sale of it’s kind in Ireland this year.
The charm of this sale is that it brings together a unique variety of the eclectic and the unusual as well as the fine and exotic in much the same way as fine old Irish country houses were very much an amalgam drawn from wider family bequests and the occasional opportunistic purchase. In these country houses there was always room for the latest heirloom, always a corner or an estate office or bedroom that could accommodate an extra piece of furniture or objet.
Here is a small selection of lots from the hundreds on offer:
Garden The auction commences with some wonderful outdoor items including a large pair of carved stone Sphinxes, with female heads on the bodies of a lion (lot 34 – estimate €6000). A Victorian Scottish ironwork horse-drinking trough (lot 35 – estimate €4000) comes from the foundry of Walter MacFarlane & Co of Glasgow and features six magnificent hairy hoof legs which supports the bath-like trough. A stunningly decorative and monumental pair of 19th century French cast iron urns and pedestals, (lot 42 – estimate €6000) are featured and are after a design by Claude Ballin who produced the originals for the Gardens of Versailles.
Silver Amongst the silver lots are some remarkable Irish seventeenth and eighteenth century pieces, and in particular a Penal Laws period chalice, paten, altar stone and missal (lot 130 estimate €20,000). Known as the ‘Stephen Kirwan’ Chalice, it dates to c.1718 and comes from the workshop of Bartholomew Fallon of Galway and is well recorded in various respected archeological and historical journals. This is the first time it has been seen on the open market. Another remarkably rare piece of old Irish silver to have survived is the George I chocolate pot (lot 139 estimate €25,000) – it is hallmarked Dublin 1719 and made by John Freese. At a more buyable level, a suite of Powerscourt House silver cutlery (lot 147 estimate €2000) comes with a terrific provenance having been sold in the 1984 sale on the premises at Powerscourt in Co. Wicklow. Finally in this section is a very rare and early pair of 17th century Cork silver spoons (lot 169 estimate €3000) which date to 1696 and were probably made by R. Goble.
Two pieces of sporting silver are notable – Lot 163 is an Irish Victorian yachting trophy inscribed “The Prince Alfred Yacht Club Kingstown, won by the Aqualine 1866, The World’s Oldest Specifically Amateur Yacht Club 1857” (est €4,000); and for those with an interest in the ‘Sport of Kings’ Lot 159 is an 18th century Racing Cup inscribed The Carrickmacross Races 1770 (est€5,000). Of course the foundations of modern organized racing are here in Ireland with the establishment of The Hon. Society of Sportsmen at the Curragh in 1747 predating The Jockey Club in London by four years.
Paintings traditionally, country houses were a repository for a wide variety of paintings from old masters to works depicting local beauty-spots and this sale reflects this perfectly. A 17th century ‘Lamentation’ attributed to the Circle of Quentin Massys (lot 352 estimate €30,000) is an almost exact period version of Massys’ now lost original composition.
A superb large Irish work by George Barret Senior is ‘Landscape with Figures’ (lot 390 estimate €25,000) - an idealized landscape in the style of Claude and which depicts fisherfolk on the banks of a river, probably based on the Dargle in Wicklow.
A pair of fine sporting paintings attributed to Irish artist William Brocas depict two historically important racehorses – ‘Valentine’ and ‘Splendour’ (lot 105 estimate €15,000) and the paintings come with the skull of one of the horses – Valentine ! These large paintings have come down through the Power family of Gurteen and Curraghchase. Valentine is best known for his performance at the 1840 Grand National in which he came third. To this day a fence at Aintree is called after Valentine.
George M.W.Atkinson’s View of Cork Harbour at Sunset (lot 283 est €50,000) is a magnificent painting of ships and boats in the stretch of water between Haulbowline Island and the town of Cobh, in Cork Harbour. The principal vessel is a Royal Navy ship of the line, probably the HMS St. Vincent which was recorded by this artist in another important work.
Other fine works are included by artists such as Nathaniel Hone the Elder, Lots 197 and 211; period portraits by Michael Dahl (lot 266) and James Latham (lot 267) and a pair of charming Irish interior scenes by Charles Hunt (lot 233).
Furniture The range of period furniture included in this sale is stunning, from small domestic sized pieces that will fit most houses to a monumental dining table that can accommodate twenty two comfortably ! This Williams and Gibton of Dublin triple pillar mahogany dining table is truly awesome, standing at almost 6 meters long and is stamped and numbered by the makers. (lot 219 est €50,000).
There are several bookcases at very different price points to choose from but the stand-out piece is a Thomas Chippendale mahogany four-door example (lot 291 estimate €40,000) which is identical to a set of bookcases made by Chippendale for Nostell Priory, the stately home of the Winn family in Yorkshire. Lot 300 (estimate €40,000) is a superb Irish Georgian mahogany side table with a beautifully carved shell frieze and is a piece of furniture highly prized in grand Irish houses.
Desks too are highly prized for the library or study and there are a few good examples included – A Gillows style twin pedestal desk from the George III period (lot 364 estimate €10,000) or a Chinese Chippendale secretaire Bookcase (lot 226 estimate €20,000) or indeed the statuesque Irish architect’s desk (lot 215 estimate €25,000). A remarkable piece of furniture with a link to one of Cork’s greatest merchant families, the Penroses formerly of Woodhill House is an early 18th century Vizayapatan writing desk (lot 234 estimate €7,000) which is raised on an Irish 18th century table stand. The top is typically decorated with ivory floral marquetry on an ebony ground.
A Nasrid ebony and ivory games box (lot 333 est €10,000) dates to about 15th century Spain and reflects the North African influence on that country. The Nasrid Kingdom was the last Islamic province of Spain before the campaigns of Ferdinand and Isabella.
A wonderful carved oak four poster bed would bring some glamour and drama to bedtime (lot 396 est €3000) and has an interesting history having come from Belleek Castle, near Ballina in Co. Mayo.
Mirrors of all shapes and sizes will be on offer too, ranging from large overmantles to pairs of Georgian wall mirrors to a superb William Kent designed carved giltwood example (lot 416) which is estimated at €15,000.
There are numerous lots of decorative arts including a fine collection of old Irish glass, Continental, English and Oriental ceramics including a large pair of early/mid 19th century Doucai enameled Lotus Vases (lot 332 est €20,000) which stand 58cm tall.
The sale will be on view from Saturday, October 12th through to Monday, October 14th with the auction taking place on the premises on Tuesday 15th at 11am.
For more details contact James O’Halloran or Amy McNamara at 01-6760261 and for photographs please contact Diego Fabro at firstname.lastname@example.org