Attic Sale of the Century
the Dunrobin Sale at Bonhams Exceeds All Expectations

The sale of the contents of the attics and cellars at Dunrobin Castle, family seat of the 25th Earl of Sutherland, was held at Bonhams Edinburgh on Tuesday 20 April. It made £732,528, more than twice its pre-sale estimate, with 98% of the lots sold and 99% by value. The 416-lot sale started at 10am and finished just before 9pm, taking a marathon 11 hours to complete, with four auctioneers taking turns on the rostrum.

Dunrobin Castle in Sutherland is one of the most celebrated and largest Scottish ancestral houses. Expanded during the Victorian era – there are 189 rooms – it was used by the Sutherland family for entertaining during the Scottish season. Queen Victoria herself was a visitor. It required armies of staff to keep the house in operation and inevitably many of the objects in the Bonhams sale came from that era. The house, which is open to the public, was unable to display all the pieces and it was decided to declutter the attics and cellars. Among the treasures discovered were paintings, marble sculptures, crested dinner services, silver platters, historic arms and pistols, tartanware, armorial panels, and an array of objects from the castle's kitchen, such as oyster stands and Victorian pewter ice cream moulds.

Charlie Thomas, Bonhams Director of House Sales, said: "This treasure trove from the atmospheric attics and cellars of Dunrobin Castle is one of the most extraordinary sales I have ever worked on. These wonderfully diverse objects were held in a time-capsule that evoked a bygone age."

Charles Graham-Campbell, Bonhams Managing Director, Scotland, said, "With such impeccable and romantic provenance, we had many hundreds of people bidding from all over the world, eager to acquire a piece of history from one of Scotland's grandest and most historic castles. As we hoped, it proved to be the sale of the season and we are delighted with the result. It shows Bonhams at its best."

Among the many highlights of the 416-lot sale were:

• A set of four carved oak armorial panels, from The Queen Regent's House, Blythe's Close, Edinburgh. Three probably 16/17th century, the fourth 18th century. The third panel shows the impaled arms of the King of Scotland, specifically King James V (1512-1542) and Mary Guise, Duchess of Longville. They were married 1538 at Notre Dame. Their daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587), would have displayed the same arms. However, as after her death, these arms would have ceased to be used, it points to the panel being in use for the period 1538-1587. Sold for £17,750 (estimate £4,000 - 6,000).

• A Rare Pair of Scottish All-Metal Flintlock Belt Pistols given by William Gordon, 18th Earl of Sutherland to Captain James Sutherland in 1763 and made by Alexander Campbell of Doune. Captain Sutherland was a member of the Sutherland Fencibles, raised in Scotland from the area of Sutherland and Caithness in 1759 and disbanded in 1799. They were raised solely for the defence of Britain from French invasion by William, 18th Earl of Sutherland (1735-1776). Sold for £44,000 (estimate: £8,000 - 10,000).

Portrait of Henri III of France by Follower of Etienne Dumonstier (1540-1603). Sold for £9,562 (estimate: £3,000 - 5,000).

A Minton Majolica Four-tier Oyster stand. Sold for £4,462 (estimate: £600 - 800).

• A Minton Majolica Four-tier Oyster stand. Sold for £4,462 (estimate: £600 - 800).

• An Edwardian Silver-Gilt Duchess' Coronet by Garrard, London 1901. Sold for £11,475 (estimate: £1,000 – 1,500).

• A collection of Victorian Pewter ice cream moulds. Sold for £1,020 (estimate: £80-120).

Portrait of a Gentleman, thought to be Augustus II, Herzog zu Braunschweig-Luneberg by Jan Anthonisz. Van Ravesteyn. Sold for £12,750 (estimate: £8,000- 12,000).

• A group of five Victorian blue gilt porcelain door finger plates. Sold for £2,805 (estimate: £300 - 400).

• Four Copeland water pails. Sold for £1,785 (estimate: £300 - 400).

• A collection of Victorian Telegraph cables. Sold £5,100 (estimate: £800 - 1,200).

• A collection of Tartanware boxes and objects. Sold for £2,422 (estimate: £1,000 - 1,500).


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