Sunday 24 March 2019

Wanted: wealthy donor to save State's €1.75m treasure trove

An inverted Cork pear-shaped teapot by Stephen Walshe, 1750
An inverted Cork pear-shaped teapot by Stephen Walshe, 1750

Cormac Murphy

THE family silver is being sold off to international buyers.

Despite desperate attempts by curators at the National Museum of Ireland to find a wealthy donor who could buy 107 pieces of silver and donate them to the museum, they have failed.

The €1.75m collection, being sold by a private seller, will now be broken up and sold to individuals, with fears that many of the pieces will go abroad.

Antique dealer William Crofton said time had run out in the quest to convince possible benefactors to buy the pieces and gift them to the nation so they could remain in the country.

"There are pieces in the collection which should never leave the country, but you have to understand that antiques follow the money," Mr Crofton told the Irish Independent.

He and National Museum director Dr Raghnall O Floinn had until the end of February to find a sponsor. High-net-worth individuals and companies were contacted but to no avail and the collection will now be broken up and sold on the international market.

Among the most prized items are the earliest Cork bullet teapot by Thomas Lilly (1723) and a trowel used to lay the foundation stone for New Geneva – a never-realised project to settle Protestant Swiss craftspeople in Co Waterford in 1784.

"The Waterford trowel should never leave this country. I have never seen a more important piece historically than the trowel," said Mr Crofton of silver specialists L&W Duvallier.

It is expected the collection will be shipped to London next week and sold to the highest bidders. "Everyone who has expressed an interest in the pieces will be emailed and the pieces will go on public sale," Mr Crofton said.

The silver, from a private Dublin collection, was made by renowned Dublin and provincial 18th- and 19th-century silversmiths.

A sponsor would have been able to offset 80pc of its market value against tax.

Irish Independent

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