Rare European works of art discovered in Fife attic

They included textiles, sculptures, furniture and a Victorian bicycle.

By Elsa Maishman
Monday, 14th September 2020, 7:30 am
Flemish tapestry
Flemish tapestry

Rare European works of art spanning five centuries have been discovered in the attic of a Fife country house.

The treasures from Balcarres House in Fife were put up for auction in Edinburgh this month.

The 206 different items included textiles, sculptures, furniture and a Victorian bicycle.

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Giuseppe Piamontini terracotta sculpture. Picture: Alex Robson

The house, which lies 1km north of Colinsburgh in the East Neuk of Fife, has been home to the Lindsay family since 1595.

It is a category A listed building and the grounds are included in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland.

A 27cm Giuseppe Piamontini sculpture trebled its estimate to sell for £16,250 at the auction run by Lyon & Turnbull at the beginning of September.

It was examined by Dr Charles Avery, former deputy keeper of the department of sculpture at the V&A museum, who described it as having “some ravishing details”.

A rare 17th century Indo-Portuguese embroidered coverlet showed a ruler with bands of musicians, hunters, boats, fish and animals.

It sold for £18,750.

A Flemish mythological tapestry showed a scene from the tragic love affair

between Dido, founding Queen of Carthage, and Trojan hero Aenaes.

Thought to have been made in Bruges in around 1700, it sold for £9,375.

One of the most sought-after items was a French Empire mantel clock from around 1820, with a marble and pieta dura case.

An early microscope was a reflection of the days in the 19th century when microscopy became a gentlemanly pleasure.

A rare lever-driven safety bicycle dated to around 1897 was unexpectedly popular and sold for £5,250 despite its rust-covered condition and having one wheel missing.

"The collection provided a rare glimpse into another world and a time gone by, and it truly captured the spirit we aim to achieve in our ‘Five Centuries’ auctions” said specialist and Head of Sale, Douglas Girton.

“From the rare and beautiful study of Bacchus and Ariadne by Giuseppe Piamontini (1664-1742), to the barn-found objects such as a rare Victorian bicycle, buyers responded with huge enthusiasm.

“It was thrilling to witness such lively bidding across all collecting categories.

"I was particularly encouraged to see so much interest in traditional 18th century furniture, which goes against everything we’ve been hearing recently.

"I’m delighted for our vendors, who’ve had to wait so long to see their items go under the gavel. It was worth the wait!”

Lord Balniel and heir apparent to the 29th Earl of Crawford said: “I was thrilled with the results of the Balcarres property included in Lyon & Turnbull’s Five Centuries auction.

"It was a great surprise to find that pieces long-owned by the family, and hidden away in our attics, commanded such good prices – in particular the rare ‘Northfleet’ bicycle seemed to have proved a real hit with bidders.”

The Balcarres estate is part of East Neuk Estates, a joint venture of six local landed families who still live on and run their estates, which are mostly agricultural.