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    The 17th Century Bronze /Bell Metal Mortar at Dolan’s art auction. (Click on image to enlarge). UPDATE: THIS MADE 8,250.

    An extremely rare 1631 mortar inscribed to commemorate a marriage between two great Galway families, the Joyces and the Brownes, is a feature lot at Dolan’s art auction in Ballynahinch Castle on August 6.  The mid 17th century bronze or bell metal mortar probably originated in England or in the north east of Continental Europe.  The inscription on the rim – E. BROVNE … 1631 … T. IOYES – was probably added later.  The piece has passed down to the vendor through generations of the Lynch family of Belclare, Co. Galway.

    It was of practical use and may have been put on the table to grind herbs and spices.  This was a symbol of wealth as only the most privileged would have been in a position to import spices from the East Indies. The handles appear to be modelled on late medieval gargoyles used as water spouts in buildings of the time. They resemble hippopotamus heads, a possible allusion to the exotic nature of the spices being ground. It dates from a time when leading merchants often resided in fortified town houses in Galway. Lynch’s Castle, on Shop Street, Galway is an example of one such fortified townhouse. The foundry where it came from would have manufactured bronze and brass bells and military cannon.

    Dolan’s is grateful to Dr Pat Wallace, former Director of the National Museum of Ireland, to Dr Patrick Melvin, and to the staff of the National Museum of
    Ireland for their advice and assistance in cataloguing this Mortar.

    The August Bank Holiday Monday auction in the wonderfully scenic Connemara surroudings of Ballynahinch offers a good selection of Irish art and sculpture plus a number of lots of furniture, silver and porcelain.

    A detail of the mortar showing part of the inscription. (Click on image to enlarge).

    A detail of the mortar showing the date. The maker had a set of letters, but no numbers, so ‘I’ was used as a ‘One’ and the numbers six and three have been inscribed. (Click on image to enlarge).

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