Early steeplechase trophy part of auction smorgasbord
Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 12th May, 2016
The 1853 “First Hunt Steeplechase Trophy” – offered for auction for the first time in 163 years – is a major highlight of Leonard Joel’s Asian Art, Classic Furniture & Objects auction from noon Sunday May 15 at 333 Malvern Road, South Yarra.
Ironically, the Leonard Joel’s sale takes place only a few blocks from where the trophy (won by colonial pioneer Alexander McLean Hunter’s horse Benedict) was originally presented – the former Prahran Course located in the precinct between what is now Toorak Road and Fawkner Park in Melbourne’s South Yarra.
One of five sons of Alexander Hunter, in 1839 Alexander MacLean Hunter emigrated to Australia to represent a company established by his father to acquire land in the Port Phillip settlement.
The operation also included livestock purchase and transport to the colony and grew to encompass land holdings in Victoria’s Western District, Warrnambool, Gippsland and South Australia.
Regarded as skilful horsemen, the Hunter brothers were well known in early Melbourne racing circles and Alexander MacLean owned several race-winning horses.
The auction contains several exemplary collections and the trophy is part of one of the finest offerings of silver to be seen in several years, with presentation pieces a major attraction.
Another notable example is a Victorian silver mounted novelty claret jug in the shape of a seal, by designer Alexander Crichton.
With the current demand for Crichton’s creations, this piece takes on further significance because of its inscription stating it was a gift from the Frankston Bowling Club to Major General Harold William Grimwade in 1937.
One of the best collections (including its silver content) in the sale is that of the late Sara-Jean ‘Sally’ Dilena, who died last year.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Sally was a pioneer in the successful Melbourne manufacture and retail of American confectionery – a commercial drive that co-existed with her passion for collecting.
She was a regular purchaser at Melbourne antique auctions and a valued customer of well-known retailers like Kozminsky Galleries in Bourke Street – and often presented her husband James with lengthy shopping lists for antique objects during his overseas trips, taken ostensibly for sourcing new products for her shop.