Belfast Telegraph

Ceramics sale raises 1.3m euro

A rarely seen collection of Chinese ceramics from one of Ireland's finest stately homes has sold at auction for twice the estimates.

The 20 oriental treasures from the Sir Alfred Beit raised almost 1.3m euro which will be used to secure the future of Russborough House in Wicklow.

Auctioneers at Sotheby's in London said the interest greatly exceeded expectations.

"We are thrilled with the result achieved," said Robert Bradlow, the auction house's expert on Chinese fine arts.

"It was a privilege for Sotheby's to offer these exquisite pieces which came to auction with exceptional provenance. Sir Alfred made considered choices when selecting objects for his collection, with the emphasis on quality and design, and these criteria are valued highly by today's collectors, as witnessed in our London saleroom."

The rarely seen or displayed collection had been bought by Sir Alfred Beit in the 1950s, mostly from the dealer John Sparks but spent most of the time in storage.

The auction house said 14 lots sold for a total of 1.28m euro, well above the pre-sale estimates of up to 535,000 euro.

The top two lots in the auction were a rare black-ground famille-rose bowl, which dates from between 1723-35 and sold for 517,099 euro, and a pair of famille-rose balsam pear bowls sold for 1 31,506 euro.

The Russborough palladian mansion, near Blessington, was left to the state. Sir Alfred, who died in 1994, was a wealthy English aristocrat and former Conservative MP and one of Ireland's most generous philanthropists.

His wealth came from an inherited diamond mining fortune and a collection of art masterpieces.

He bought Russborough in 1952 and became renowed for throwing lavish parties there with his wife Clementine.

The foundation set up in the wake of his death has sold other items to pay for upkeep at Russborough, including a collection of 16th-century Italian bronze sculptures that made 3.8m euro at auction in 2006.

The Beits' legacy also includes paintings donated in 1987 to the National Gallery including Vermeer's Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid.

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