Australian Prenzel wood carving to bring auction goers running

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 29th March, 2019

An extremely rare Robert Prenzel wood carving of a koala (lot 437) signed by the artist and dated 1917 is a major highlight of E.J. Ainger’s forthcoming two-day special sale from 11am Saturday April 6 and at the same time the following day at 433 Bridge Road, Richmond.

Woodcarver and cabinetmaker Prenzel (1866-1941) was born in Prussia and in 1888 arrived in Melbourne via a European “carving” sojourn.

Working first for a shipbuilder, he then began designing furniture for Nunan Bros before going into partnership with John Treede.

Together, worked on such projects as the carvings on the walls and ceilings of St Patrick’s Cathedral.

In the early 1900s, Prenzel established his own woodcarving business in South Melbourne and from about 1910 to 1930 was a South Yarra-based furniture manufacturer.

His carvings, particularly of Australian animals and plants – often in the art nouveau style in Australian timbers, are well-known and the largest collection of his works resides in the National Gallery of Victoria.

Managing director John Ainger says this is the auction house’s first special sale in seven months and features the best items retained from deceased estates over that time and he expects a good turnout from auction goers.

“Of particular note is an ivory consignment (lots 719-741) from the collection of a former English Colonial Secretary of Malaya in the late 1800s, Sir Ayton Frederick Dickson,” he said.

“These were subsequently handed down to his descendants and include ivory netsukes of various subjects including a masquerade figure (lot 729).”

Another rare auction item is a rhinoceros horn (lot 570a) while furniture includes items from a Wilks Avenue, Toorak mansion purchased while the owners were living in London and 1885 matching Huon pine dresser, chest and bedside tables in original condition.

One of the more interesting items is lot 2, a scale model of Captain Cook’s HM Bark Endeavour 1768 (complete with framed drawings) built by Frank Wheatland and his wife Magdalena.

The drawings for the model were compiled by one of his friends, merchant seaman the late Ray Parkin, who was captured by the Japanese in World War II and became a theatre artist for the iconic Weary Dunlop in Burma and Japan.

Other auction highlights feature a collection of French Lalique glass including a rare Aras purple vase (lot 478) and sterling silver from various estates such as the Queen Anne silver ale jug (lot 666).

Hand painted Royal Worcester including Harry Davis’s 1907 creation of The Shepherd Droving Sheep (lot 589) is another attraction, along with art deco amphora (lot 502) from the well-known Eaglemont grocer Ivan Mason who died two years ago, and English Moore porcelain.

The auction also is notable for a superb clock collection belonging to Bruce and Gwendolyne Brookman, former owners of Clockwise Clocks in Burwood Road, Hawthorn.

Of particular note is a French black marble mantel clock with open escarpment (lot 90).

Paintings by well-known Australian artists are another drawcard and include J.H Scheltema’s Droving Cattle (lot 410), Ernest Buckmaster’s Still Life with Fruits & Silver (lot 440) and works by John Tiplady (Paris scene) and Donald Friend (Bali).

Nineteenth century French gilt wall mirrors and jewellery that features an impressive handmade diamond fan brooch (lot 718) should also attract plenty of attention. 



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