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Antiques Trade Gazette 19

Tiger at the castle

Right: Empress Sissy’s riding whip – €37,000 (£33,945) at Adam’s.

Empress’s whip makes a cracking £34,000

THERE’S nothing like a story to enhance an object’s appeal. And if the story involves suggestions of illicit romance among fox-hunting royals, so much the better.

Above: one of a pair of c.1720 Irish mahogany side chairs – €28,000 (£25,690) at Adam’s Slane Castle sale.

away around estimate. A George III triple-pillar mahogany dining table took €13,000 (£11,925) and a beautiful c.1780 pier table attributed to William Moore of Dublin made £20,000 (£18,350). The latter, a 3ft 6in (1.07m) work in sycamore, had a fan-shaped top featuring characteristic neoclassical marquetry in a variety of woods. Some tables with five-figure hopes,

however, failed to sell. Among them was a rare, early George III mahogany Irish drop-leaf dining table once in Rahinstown House, source of a number of fine lots at Slane, which was estimated at €10,000-15,000. Other lots could be dated back to

Farmleigh, the Georgian Dublin house bought by Edward Guinness, later the 1st Earl of Iveagh, in 1873 and sold by the 4th Earl in 1997. A George III mahogany and

satinwood, boxwood and ebony-banded doubled-sided writing table originally at Farmleigh could only manage a below- estimate €1200 (£1100) and 245-piece 18th/19th century glass table service with the same pedigree went at €4800. (£4400) against an estimate of €8000- 12,000. Other Farmleigh-pedigree pieces fared

rather better. A Ziegler carpet (one of no fewer than 23 owned by the 3rd Earl) measuring 16ft 2in x 11ft 11in (4.92 x 6.63m) took €17,000 (£15,600) against a €10,000-15,000 estimate, Going considerably further over

estimate was a monumental 19th century mahogany breakfront wardrobe

Above: the Oldbridge cabinet – €18,000 (£16,515) at Adam’s Slane Castle sale. Top right: Dublin 1704, silver tankard, probably by William Archdall – €8000 (£7340) at Adam’s. Lower right: Second Period Belleek figure, Erin Awakening from Her Slumbers – €3600 (£3300) at Adam’s.

‘An item doesn’t have to be Irish to sell well at these sales, but it probably helped here that the lot in question was a harp’

with Egyptian motifs, including carved sphinxes on each of the flanking cupboards. At 7ft 10in high by 8ft 10in wide (2.41 x 2.70m), this was basically a large piece of brown furniture and it was estimated at €2000-4000. Like others, Mr Cole was frankly

astonished to see it sell at €18,000 (£16,515). Interestingly, this wasn’t a result of two feverishly determined private buyers. The wardrobe was a rare success for the trade, in this case a European dealer. Another hefty piece of Irish mahogany

– but much more photogenic – was a c.1780 bureau cabinet once in the Coddingtons’ family seat at Oldbridge, Co. Kerry. Standing 7ft 3in tall by 4ft wide (2.26

x 1.21m), it featured a swan-neck broken pediment above a pair of panel doors enclosing drawers, folio divisions and pigeonholes. The base had a slope front revealing a fitted interior with parcel-gilt

decoration, above three short and three long drawers on ogee bracket feet. Again, private bidders were beaten

when it took a mid-estimate €18,000 (£16,515) – this time bid by an Irish Government representative, which suggests the cabinet it will return to Oldbridge House, now a centre devoted to the Battle of the Boyne, jointly run by the Government and Ulster’s Orange Order Also rather dauntingly large, but going

far above estimate, was another of the lots once in Rahinstown House – a pair of George IV Irish ebonised and brass- mounted sofas. Each 8ft (2.45m) wide, they were in the neoclassical style and against hopes of €4000-6000 they sold at €15,000 (£13,760). More usual seating furniture had its

ups and downs. A set of c.1770 Scottish ‘cockpen’

mahogany-framed armchairs with latticework backs and a provenance back to Culzean Castle, Ayrshire, failed against a €25,000-35,000 estimate. However, sets of chairs generally sold

well, and a pair of c.1720 Irish mahogany side chairs – illustrated on these pages and described by Stuart Cole as “really beautiful, fresh and crisp” led the way.

continued on page 20

All such elements are there in the elegant c.1875 riding whip, above. It was, said Adam’s auctioneer Stuart Cole, quite literally, an attic find at Rahinstown House, Co Meath. Rahinstown, source of a number of stars at Adam’s sale, was one of the Boford family’s homes for 150 years until it was sold in 1852 to Robert Fowler whose descendants still live in the house rebuilt after a fire in 1875. The whip was made for the beautiful Elisabeth of Bavaria who, aged 16, married Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria in 1854. Clashes between the unconventional young Empress of Austria and her formidable mother-in-law eventually led to Sissy, as she was always known, going into self-imposed semi-exile in England and Ireland in around 1870.

In Northamptonshire she discovered the joys of riding to hounds and heard of the quality of fox- hunting in Co Meath. She packed her gear, including the whip with its silver band bearing the imperial crest and a pommel shaped as the imperial crown, and went to stay with Lord Langford at Summerhill for the 1879/1880 season. She was accompanied by the dashing ‘Bay’ Middleton, ADC to the Lord Lieutenant, Earl Spencer, and rode with the Meath Hunt, the master of which was Robert Langford. Sissy said the season was the happiest time of her life and, while locals assumed Bay Middleton played his part in this, the hunting was also memorable. The empress gave the whip, in a mahogany presentation case with a silvered crest plate bearing the imperial Arms of Hapsburg to Robert Fowler as a keepsake. At the Slane Castle sale, the whip and case was estimated at €3000-5000 but sold to a private Austrian bidder (possibly, said Stuart Cole, one of the millions who watch the Mayerling movie on TV every Christmas) at €37,000 (£33,945). Readers who prefer happy endings should stop here. Sissy’s life after her Irish sojourn was a tragic one. Sciatica forced her to give up riding and though she found solace in studying ancient Greece, she was then devastated by the suicide of her son Prince Rudolf in the notorious Mayerling affair. In 1898, she was stabbed to death in Geneva by an Italian anarchist looking for any victim among the nobility.

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