Sneak preview of riches on offer in Bantry House auction

Even though the catalogue is still in the course of preparation, the Irish Examiner can today offer a sneak preview of treasures from Bantry House to be sold by Edinburgh-based auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull on October 21.

Given that the international market is hot, it is difficult to estimate what the prices will actually be for lots like Marie Antoinette’s rose-coloured tapestries; a 17th century Russian household shrine; a bust by renowned Irish sculptor John Hogan; an early 18th century Gobelins tapestry from the Palace of Versailles; and a portrait gift from King George III.

Auctions of the house contents on the premises tend to generate higher-than-average prices and it is safe to assume these rarities with impeccable provenance will soar.

Bantry House is no ordinary house, and Richard White, the Second Earl of Bantry, was no ordinary collector. Beginning in the 1820s, he and wife Lady Mary O’Brien, of Dromoland Castle, Co Clare, travelled and collected in Russia, Scandinavia, Spain, Italy, and France, acquiring furniture, paintings, and tapestries for Bantry.

There is as yet no estimate available on Antoinette’s tapestries, said to have been made by order of Louis XV on her marriage to the Dauphin of France. The suite will be sold as individual pieces: La Bascule (The Swing), La Fontaine de l’Amour (The Fountain of Love), and Le Colin Maillard (Blind Man’s Buff).

Lyon & Turnbull has estimated an early 18th century Gobelins tapestry, Les Triomphes des Dieux Bacchus — complete with royal crown and interlinked “L” monogram — at €20,000-€30,000. A second Gobelins tapestry, The Bath of Cupid and Psyche, is estimated at €15,000-€24,000.

Another expensively estimated lot is a pair of portraits from the studio of Allan Ramsay, of King George III in coronation robes and Queen Charlotte, at €30,000-€50,000. These were presented by the king to the first earl on his elevation to the peerage for helping to keep the French invasion at bay in 1797.

A Russian iconostasis cabinet, described as 17th century and later, is estimated at €25,000-€35,000. This household shrine comes complete with 15th and 16th century icons.

The estimate for a pair of marble busts of Richard White, Second Earl of Bantry, and his wife, by John Hogan (1800-58) is €8,000-€12,000. Hogan is considered to be one of Ireland’s greatest sculptors.

An 18th century silhouette of the First Earl of Bantry has an estimate of €300-€500. Furniture from the house includes a pair of 19th century, estate-made, Irish elm pedestal tables (€2,000-€3,000); a William IV centrepiece with Bantry insignia (€4,000-€6,000); an early 19th century, Aubusson-covered settee (€1,000-€1,500); and a set of three George III Irish mahogany hall chairs with the Bantry crest (€700-€900).

A late 17th century Japanese lacquer chest is estimated at €5,000-€8,000 and a pair of wax reliefs by Jean Guillaume Moitte, c1789, have an estimate of €6,000-€8,000.

Prior to the auction, the house and contents will be on view from October 17-20.


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