What's on at the galleries, museums and institutions

Please refer to the respective web sites of each gallery, museum or institution to see Whats on. Go to our Institutions page for a list and a link to each web site. 

Australiana at the July to November 2012 Auctions

Paintings and works on paper were the main Australiana items at the Mossgreen sale of the Clemente Collection in Hobart in November. The catalogue cover item, a colonial painting Portrait of the Walker Children, was sold for $95,160, including buyer’s premium against an estimate of $80,000 to $100,00. The buyer is believed to be a descendant of one of the sitters in the painting. A watercolour of a scene with Governor Franklin, Commander Crozier and Captain Ross near the Observatory, Hobart, circa 1840, by an unknown artist, sold for $25,620 (IBP) against an estimate of $7,000 to$10,000. An interesting collection of watercolours and pencil drawings executed by Elizabeth Errington, a resident of Hobart and wife of Captain Charles Arnold Errington, dated between 1843 to 1847 were acquired by the Allport Library for an undisclosed price prior to the auction.

The furniture in the sale was mainly English and French but there were a few Australian colonial pieces with a cedar bookcase, circa 1855 selling for $18,300 (IBP) against an estimate of $5,000 to $8,000 while a fine musk and huon pine specimen wood chess table, circa 1835, achieved a robust price of $18,910 (IBP) against an estimate of $6,000 to $8,000. Prices for large pieces of colonial furniture continue to be subdued as reflected by the $3,904 (IBP) selling price for a colonial cedar and rose mahogany inverted breakfront wardrobe, circa 1850, against a modest estimate of $2,000 to $3,000. 

In a separate Mossgreen sale in Melbourne, a fine specimen wood box by August Schramm, circa 1900 fetched $15,860 (IBP). The box came with three original design plans in pencil, with one signed A. Schramm Melbourne. Timbers from Australia, New Zealand and one from Fiji were used in the construction of the box which was also stamped A. Schramm.

The extensive collection of the late Graham and Elizabeth Cocks was auctioned by Bonhams over two weekends in November. The Australiana collection included silver, jewellery, pottery, and furniture. The highlight of the collection was the James Oatley clock. The clock was in as near original condition as could be desired and was numbered 23 and dated to 1822. In fairly subdued bidding, a pair of telephone bidders outlasted initial interest from the room and the clock was knocked down to one of the telephone bidders at $240,000. With buyer’s premium and GST added, the price was just shy of $300,000 at $298,080 against an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. With the exception of jewellery, prices were In general below or at the lower end of the estimates with many higher priced silver items passed in.  

A pistol that may have belonged to the Kelly gang was sold for $122,000 (IBP) at a November auction in Melbourne. The pistol, a single shot muzzle-load and described as a modified East India Company Cavalry Pistol and had 1876/DAN KELLY engraved on its stock. No provenance linking the pistol to the Kelly gang has been verified or was available. The pistol has remained in the same family since being acquired in 1900.

At the November Special Antique Auction at Gowans in Tasmania, a Gould lithograph of Tasmanian Tigers fetched $9,000, excluding buyers commission. A colonial watercolour of two young girls, attributed to the convict artist, Charles Constanini, with huon pine frame bearing a ‘Hood’ makers label realised $10,500 (EBP). Based on the buildings depicted in the background, the girls were thought to be the daughters of colonial landholder, James Rollings (1819-1878). A fine blackwood and huon pine centre pedestal table was sold for $92,000. Inclusive of the buyer’s premium, the buyer would have paid a $105,800. The table had a maker’s label for William Hamilton and a provenance by descent from the Headlam family ‘Glen Esk’ Conara. Apprentice furniture continues to have a strong following when a 19th Century birdseye huon pine apprentice chaise lounge retaining its original horsehair stuffing was bid to a final price of $10,500 (EBP). A wool & thread work of an early version of the Australian coat of arms, housed in an oval frame sold for $3,400 (EBP). George Peddle chairs were also in demand, when a set of three chairs, with one bearing a stamp of ‘G. Peddle Chair Makers Hobart’ achieved $7,800 (EBP). After paying the additional buyer’s premium, each chair cost the buyer $2,990.      

Australiana at the January to June 2012 Auctions

The Vizard Foundation Collection, together with other important Australian gold and silver was sold by Lawson Menzies in early April. Prices achieved were modest with most lots sold at the low end of the estimates while many items were passed in. An impressive and extremely rare canteen of table silver by Alexander Dick, comprising of 24 pieces with an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000 was passed in at $34,000. Another important Alexander Dick lot, a three piece silver tea set was passed in at $65,000 against an estimate of $80,000 - $120,000. The highest price at the auction was achieved by the Adelaide Hunt Gold Cup by Henry Steiner with a presentation inscription for the year 1881. The cup was knocked down for a relatively modest price of $130,000 against an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000.


In the Mossgreen April auction held at Clarendon House, Tasmania, a rare cedar drum work table with marble top, circa 1835 was sold for $17,080 (IBP). The highest price of the sale was achieved by Lot 23, an important folio of botanical paintings by Eliza Blyth. The folio with an inter-colonial exhibition label with details, “Tasmania, 1866 no. 560 by Miss Blyth” was sold for $61,000 (IBP). Eliza Blyth, a teacher by profession, was known primarily for her flower paintings was active in the second half of the 19th Century, living at various times in Tasmania and Victoria. A cedar scrolled armchair circa 1830 sold for $20,740 (IBP) reflecting the strong demand for this style of early armchair.


A previously unrecorded mid-19th Century chest of drawers veneered in highly figured musk on a huon pine carcass failed to attract buyers at the special antiques auction at Tullochs in May. The veneer was applied in sections to create attractive patterns of grain on the surfaces of the chest. The chest had been catalogued with an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. The sale included several early and rare items of colonial furniture which also failed to find a new home at the sale.

At the June Special Antiques auction of Gowans, a small casuarina writing table described as 1st quarter of the 19th Century, and possibly one of the earliest known surviving pieces of furniture made in Tasmania sold for $122,000. The table had a possible important provenance which required further research.  A porcelain plate bearing the crest of Dudley Fereday, Sheriff Van Diemen’s Land sold for $3,800. The sale also included many convict items such as hand cuffs and leg irons. Less common items such as a convict period man trap stamped with the letters HR and a crown was keenly bid to a final price of $22,000, while a convict punishment leg irons achieved a price of $10,500. The robust prices for the convict related objects may be indicative of a new collecting interest in this area.