Thousands descended on Mount Congreve, the venue for Ireland’s largest country house auction, over the weekend — with interest in the contents from the house on the banks of the River Suir at Kilmeaden, Co Waterford, both national and international.
Already, 400 internet bidders from the US, China, Japan, Chile, Russia, throughout Continental Europe, and further afield have registered to take part in the two-day sale which kick off tomorrow.
Mealy’s, who will conduct the auction in association with Christie’s, expect the number of global internet bidders will hit 1,000 by the time the first lot goes under the hammer at 11am tomorrow.
This is iffy news for bargain hunters. Competition for all lots, from the lowliest household linens to an ormolu mounted commode reputedly once owned by Marie Antoinette will be very strong. It seems safe to predict that most of the more than 1,100 lots will sell at, around, or way above estimate.
George Gerard Mealy of Mealy’s said 600 requests for further images, condition reports, and enquiries related to particular lots had been processed by yesterday afternoon. Most of this interest is centred on the likes of lot 985, the cabinet reputedly bought in the courtyard of Versailles during the French Revolution and estimated at €20,000-€30,000, the carpets, the chandeliers, and Oriental items like lot 911, a Chinese Yongzheng vase estimated at €20,000-€30,000.
Other top lots include a mahogany Carlton House Desk with an estimate of €80,000-€100,000 and the Schreiber collection of salt glaze ceramics (€40,000-€60,000).
The collection was assembled in the 19th century by Lady Caroline Schreiber, an ancestor of Ambrose Congreve. Though best known as the creator of the legendary gardens at Mount Congreve, he was an active, discriminating, and wealthy collector over an unusually long span of more than 60 years. He died last year aged 104. Around 120 lots from Mount Congreve brought in £3.4m (€4.3m) at Christie’s in London in May.
The number of viewers at Mount Congreve this weekend exceeded all expectations. In order to cater for the crowds, gates opened at 11am yesterday, an hour ahead of schedule. On Saturday there was a 30-minute delay getting in to the house and there was further queuing inside for those who wished to go upstairs or gain access to the library. Viewing continues from 10am to 5pm today.
This is an auction of rare antique furniture, rugs, chandeliers, Chinese ceramics, Oriental art, a magnificent library with over 250 lots, silver, plate, linen, and all the accoutrements of an exceptionally maintained country house down to a 1969 Rolls Royce. It seems as if everyone wants a piece of Mount Congreve.