Billionaire's treasure trove fetches €4m at top auction
A treasure trove of rare art from the personal collection of the late airline tycoon Tony Ryan went under the hammer for close to €4m yesterday.
The auction of 400 lots sold for €3.8m at Christie's in London and fetched considerably more than the original guide price of £2m (€2.28m).
The day-long auction was solely dedicated to the Ryanair founder's personal collection of European fine and decorative art from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries that graced his palatial mansion, Lyons Demesne, in Celbridge, Co Kildare.
Despite the hundreds of paintings, tapestries, furniture and sculptures that sold, they were a drop in the ocean compared with the 2,000-plus lots in his vast art collection.
As expected, the most sought after piece was a portrait of Arthur Hill, the second marquess of Downshire, by the renowned Irish portrait painter Hugh Douglas Hamilton that was guiding at between €224,000 and €337,000.
The small, full-length, portrait of the 18th century nobleman and politician dressed in a yellow frock coat and breeches with his arm resting on a cane, sold for €382,441 to a buyer in the UK following fierce bidding in the auction room as well as on the phone and live on the auction house's dedicated TV stream.
The second prized item -- a George III, half-moon shaped, jardinere cabinet, which dates from around 1775 -- sold at more than double the guide price of between €30,000 to €50,000 for €117,000 to a private European collector.
Other top buys included a portrait of Captain Marshall Roberts, the master of the South Notts Foxhounds, by famed Irish painter William Orpen, which sold for €110,281 and a life-sized 19th century Italian marble and bronze bust of Selika by the Milanese sculptor Pietro Calvi, which went under the hammer for €76,261.
Christie's specialist Amelia Elborne said: "This excellent result is a tribute to Dr Ryan's eclectic taste and enthusiasm for both Irish and European works of art. In spite of the current economic situation in Ireland, the depth of demand for Irish works by both international and Irish buyers remains strong."
The collection attracted a glittering array of some of the world's top art collectors -- Desmond Guinness arrived with his son, Patrick, and daughter, Marina -- when Lyons Demense was opened for a private viewing of the lots prior to the auction in May.
Mr Ryan, who passed away in 2007, was a self-made man who started off as a baggage- handler from Thurles, Co Tipperary, and went on to make a fortune after founding Ryanair in 1986.