News 2011

Important Wallis and Lycett material sold at auction in Canada

Discovered in a house in London, Ontario, Canada, previously unknown watercolours by Captain James Wallis, watercolours by Jospeh Lycett and Wallis' personal copy of "An Historical Account of The Colony of New South Wales and its Dependent Settlements.......Printed For R. Ackermann, Repository of Arts, Strand, by J. Moyes, Greville Street. 1821", were auctioned on 16th October 2011 by Gardner Galleries Auctioneers of Canada.


The material was sold in three lots. The first lot was Wallis' personal copy of "An Historial Account of NSW". The book included ink drawings and watercolours attributed to Wallis as well as five views of Sydney attributed to Joseph Lycett. The subject matter of the ink drawings and watercolours comprise of views of Newcastle and surrounding areas, views of Sydney, indigenous Australians, flora and fauna. Most of the artwork was pasted into endpapers and flyleaves of the book. Captain James Wallis and Joseph Lycett, their time in Newcastle and their roles in the manufacture of the Macquarie chest are discussed extensively in Elizabeth Ellis' book on the Macquarie chest.


The State Library of NSW has acquired the first lot for $1.8 million Canadian dollars (approximately AU$1.73 million). Prior to the auction, the State Library had made public its intention to bid for the material, hoping to ward off wealthy private collectors. Richard Neville of the Mitchell Libary said the collection of watercolours is "...without doubt the most significant pictorial artefact to have been made in colonial NSW during the 1810s."

The second lot was a sketchbook containing 75 original drawings and watercolours by Wallis during his posting to India from 1821 to 1826. Wallis returned to England after serving in Australia and was subsequently posted with the 46th Regiment to India. Most of the artwork had been pasted onto pages in the sketchbook.

The third lot was a watercolour of the Cape of Good Hope. The watercolour is titled "Cape of Good Hope from the bridge of Capt. Munro" and is signed and dated 1847 by Wallis. On the back of the same sheet, is another watercolour of an unknown coastal scene and is signed "Major J. Wallis 46th Regt."

Australiana at the Oct-Dec 2011 auctions

The contents from Leo Schofield’s Dysart House in Kempton, Tasmania were auctioned by Mossgreen in October. The predominantly English collection included a number of Australian items. A rare blackwood adjustable armchair, circa 1840 was knocked down for $13,420, inclusive of buyer’s premium while a rare pair of cedar library step ladders, dated as 19th century achieved a price of $7,320 (inclusive of BP). Other prices were $1,830 (IBP) for an early cedar hall chair, circa 1845 and $13,420 (IBP) for a large cedar wardrobe with book-matched and highly figured panels, catalogued as circa 1860 but more likely to be earlier.

A silver collection was offered at the October sale of decorative items and furniture by Sotheby’s in Melbourne. Included in the sale were the 1867 Melbourne Cup and the 1867 Queen’s Plate Trophy, offered as a single lot and sold at $72,000 (IBP). The Queen’s Plate Trophy was by William Edwards, Melbourne. An impressive silver centrepiece by H. Steiner of Adelaide, circa 1875 was sold for $24,000 (IBP) while $36,000 (IBP) was paid for a fine silver and silver gilt mounted presentation ostrich egg casket, circa 19th Century. Prices were generally at the lower end of estimates and more than half of the items were unsold.

Bonhams November sales included the Dale Frank Collection of Early Australian Furniture. Highlights from the 45 lot sale included $67,100 (IBP) for a rare set of 20 early cedar dining chairs, circa 1830, $43,920 (IBP) for a rare cedar Pembroke extension dining table, circa 1830 and $42,700 (IBP) for an early casuarina, beefwood and cedar chest, circa 1810.

An important three-piece silver teaset by Alexander Dick (c.1791-1843) sold for £42,000 (IBP) at a sale held by Tennants of Leyburn, North Yorkshire, England in November. The teaset had been commissioned by a group of grateful passengers on the Camden, a 432-ton barque which had been damaged by rocks on its way from London to Australia. The teapot carried an inscription that read: Presented by the cabin passengers on board the ship Camden to Captain Valentine Ryan in acknowledgement of his unserving attention and kindness during the voyage from Portsmouth to New South Wales 1836. A similar teaset by Dick with a provenance tracing the teaset back to John M. Saunders, Bank Manager, Bank of New South Wales, Maitland, 1870 was sold by Christies, London in 2009 for £33,650 (IBP).

  Australiana at the July-September 2011 auctions

At the Bonhams art sale in late August, two early watercolours attributed to S.T. Gill sold for $114,000 (inclusive of BP) and $102,000 (inclusive of BP), well in excess of the original estimates. The watercolours had earlier been catalogued as the work of George French Angas, the eldest son of George Fife Angas, who had a significat role in the formation of South Australia. The higher priced watercolour depicted "The Starting of a Survey and Land-Exploring Expedition from the City across the Continent towards Northern Territory" while the second watercolour depicted a scene of "The Flower Show, Adelaide".

Watercolours painted by Conrad Martens and Captain Robert Fitzroy during the voyage of the Beagle with Charles Darwin on board were sold at the McKenzies September auction for a record WA art lot record of $699,000, including buyer's premium. The lot included 28 watercolours by Marterns and 3 by Fitzroy, Captain of the Beagle. The watercolours illustrated aspects of the voyage of the Beagle during 1831 to 1836 and were mainly scenes of Chile.

At the same sale, a rare West Australian Colonial Jarrah Settle, c.1860 was keenly contested to achieve a sale price of $33,785 (IBP) against an estimate of $8,000 - $12,000. An Important Western Australian Racing Trophy Cup - The Kalgoorlie Cup, 1936, described as a solid gold cup in the classical form, having two handles, engraved, "Kalgoorlie Cup 1936", was sold for $31,455 (IBP) against an estimate of $8,000 - $16,000.

In other non-auction sales, a rare colonial portrait by William Duke (1814-1853) of a transported Maori convict has reputedly been acquired by the National Portrait Gallery of Australia. The portrait is of Hophepa Te Umuroa, who was transported from New Zealand to Hobart for his participation in an attack on a farm in the Hutt Valley, New Zealand in 1846. The King Secretaire Campaign Bookcase, one of the most significant and important items of colonial furniture known, has for the first time in its more than 200 years of existence has left the King family descendants. It had been on the market recently and has reputedly been sold. The sale price has not been disclosed.

Australiana at the May/June 2011 auctions

At the Special Antique Auction held in May by Gowans, a colonial cedar round dining table with segmented top and huon pine centre panel on a three sided pedestal and triform base decorated with Regency style brass fee and casters sold for $62,000 while a colonial birdseye huon pine apprentice five drawer chest sold for $6,500.

Australian pottery, Robert Prenzel carvings, and John Kendrick Blogg carvings were offered at Leonard Joel’s June sale of Decorative Arts and Fine Furniture. Sold lots showed buyers’ preferences for John Kendrick Blogg over Prenzel and pottery with all four Kendrick carvings recording sales and only one Prenzel and a few of the pottery finding new homes.

A unique and unpublished sketch book of flora, fauna and indigenous people of the Southern Highlands, circa 1843 was offered at Aalders Auctions on 12th June 2011. The sketch book was made by Charlotte Atkinson for the 13th birthday of her second daughter in 1843. Charlotte Atkinson nee Waring born in 1796 arrived in c1826 to take up employment as the private tutor of Hannibal Macarthur’s children. Charlotte Atkinson is the author of the first children’s book to be published in Australia by an Australian resident and the mother of the novelist and naturalist Louisa Atkinson. The sketchbook was reportedly sold for $90,000. 

A Tasmanian presentation gold snuff box by Edward Smith, Birmingham, 1858 with original case and three letters of related correspondence sold for $108,000 (IBP) at the Bonhams June Fine Furniture and Decorative Arts sale held in Sydney. The gold snuff box had been estimated at $18,000 - $25,000 and was keenly fought over between bidders in the room and a number of telephone bidders. The box was presented to William Robertson, an explorer and successful pastoralist in Tasmania, and a prominent member of the colony. The box was presented to Robertson upon his departure from Tasmania to Britain but he returned to Australia in 1865 and settled in Victoria. The box was from a private collection by direct descent from William Robertson.

At the same sale, an important collection of Patrick White correspondence sold for 60,000 (IBP) while a painted pottery figure of a Kookaburra by Maud O’Reilly, circa 1926 sold for $14,400 (IBP), a copy of the first edition of The Sydney Herald (18th April 1831) sold for $1,920 (IBP), a cedar side table by Andrew Lenehan sold for $9,600 (IBP), and a collection of 171 gelatin silver photographs documenting the construction of the Sydney Opera House by Max Dupain sold for $112,800 (IBP).

Australiana at the March/April 2011 auctions

A small offering of colonial furniture at the recent Sotheby's Australia sale in April achieved respectable prices with an Australian cedar armchair knocked down for $3,360, including buyer's premium against an estimate of $1,200 to $1,800 and a cedar breakfast table bearing the impressed mark of Joseph Sly recorded $10,200, including buyer's premium, against an estimate of $6,000 to $8,000. Australian silver cups continue to be in strong demand when a silver presentation cup by Charles Jones (1819-1864) of Hobart, circa 1860 was sold for $81,600 (IBP), against an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. The cup bore the inscription, 'Presented to / JAMES GRANT ESQ/ TULLOCHGORUM/ By the inhabitants of the Fingal District/ For his energy in accomplishing the road from Avoca to Falmouth V.D. Land/ 1849'. The strong price for this cup follows the $163,100 (IBP) paid by the National Museum for the Junius Cup, circa 1827, at an auction in November last year.

A rare West Australian Colonial Jarrah Chiffonier c1880 with carved barley twist supports, and carved fretwork gallery on a lower base decorated with three turned half columns and select "curly grain" jarrah to the door panels, sold for $22,717.50 (IBP) at the March auction of McKenzies in Perth.