Museum seeks sponsor for silver collection

A Cork bullet teapot from 1723 valued at €85,000.

A sponsor is being sought for an important collection of 107 pieces of Irish silver available to the National Museum of Ireland until the end of February.

After that date, the collection — capable of transforming the silver holdings at the Museum of Decorative Arts at Collins Barracks, Dublin, into the premier collection of its type in the world — will be broken up and sold.

The silver, from a private Dublin collection, contains all the principal styles of ornamentation from Rococo and early Georgian to Classical, Neo-Classical and Regency.

Highlights include the earliest Cork bullet teapot by Thomas Lily (1723); and a trowel used to lay the foundation stone for New Geneva in Co Waterford in 1784 — an 18th century project to settle Protestant Swiss craftspeople which never materialised.

The entire set is valued at €1.75m, but the donor should be able to offset most of this against tax. A sponsor could offset 80% of the market value of the purchase.

The National Museum is one of six Irish institutions where donations may be offset against tax. The institutions which can avail of the provision are The National Archives, the National Gallery, the National Library, the National Museum, the Crawford Gallery, and the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

The National Museum’s Irish silver collection is very fine, but like any assembled by purchase, donation, and long- term loan, there are significant gaps.

The collection now available can bridge many of these.

It can be seen on the website of the Dublin- and London-based silver dealers L and W Duvallier at

The collection closely documents the work of some of Ireland’s most accomplished silversmiths, such as Thomas Bolton, David King, and Robert Calderwood.

In a letter to the catalogue, director of the National Museum of Ireland, Dr Raghnall Ó Floinn, said this acquisition would “transform the National Museum of Ireland’s collection into the premier collection of its type, surpassing the Irish silver holdings of rival institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the San Antonio Museum, Texas”.

“Collections of this quality are exceptionally rare and are not normally offered for sale collectively but are usually sold off as individual lots.

“The dispersal of this collection piecemeal either by private treaty or at auction would represent a great loss to the country.”


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