Killarney, in County Kerry, became famous as a tourist destination from the 1830s, its popularity driven by the unspoiled natural beauty of the surrounding lakes and mountains. The increasing stream of visitors produced a burgeoning souvenir industry, which started as small trinkets like egg cups, snuff boxes, and card cases made from locally sourced bog oak and yew.
By the 1840s this had developed into a full-fledged cabinetmaking industry which produced portable items like chess boards, work boxes, and book trays [see lot 266], as well as larger pieces of furniture, typically work tables, davenports, and games tables, all inlaid with Killarney's principal sights and the usual Irish symbols of shamrocks and harps.
The present table is highly unusual in its size and form, and would possibly have been made by one of the two prominent makers in Killarnery, J. Egan of Main Street, or Jeremiah O’Connor. Furniture of this type was not limited to Killarney however, as other makers farther afield wanted to capitalise on the interest in ‘Irish’ furniture. In Dublin, Arthur J. Jones, Son & Co. was just one business of many engaged in similar work, exhibiting at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1851.
The popularity of Killarney was boosted by the arrival of the railway in 1854, and seven years later, a visit by Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort, accompanied by a number of their children. During their stay the royal party were guests of Lord Castlerosse at Killarney House, who presented them with a number of pieces of Killarney furniture, described in the press as “a desk and cabinet of arbutus wood”. The Queen’s gifts were manufactured by J. Egan, mentioned above, and further helped to promote this idiosyncratic furniture.
Selling fine antique furniture has always been at the core of our business, ever since Lyon & Turnbull’s establishment in 1826. Today, our specialist Fine Furniture Auctions department conducts four auctions throughout the year both through our beautiful period saleroom in Edinburgh and via our live online auctions. Our specialists’ knowledge of furniture and the current market are essential to the overall success of sales of antique pieces spanning five centuries of design; from 17th century oak through the finest walnut, mahogany, and satinwood examples of the Georgian, Regency and Victorian periods.
The Works of Art department sells a wide variety of antique items covering nearly 400 years of European and British design. Sold as part of our Five Centuries: Furniture, Paintings & Works of Art sale series, items offered at auction range from the esoteric to those of popular appeal and include sculpture, mechanical items, textiles, decorative objects and artworks. Primarily focused on works produced during the 18th and 19th centuries, our team of specialists and consultants are able to value and advise on the current market.