Famous London dealer's Indian silver collection in Melbourne auction

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 22nd June, 2023

Robert Reis was such a famous and knowledgeable London-based antiques dealer and collector that one of England’s oldest and largest auction houses Christie’s was keen to employ him – and he also trained many of the commentators on the well-known TV show Antiques Roadshow.

For 45 years with partner Gay Bowler, he spent much of his time travelling throughout Europe and the United States in the pursuit of his passion before moving to Australia in 2009.

Robert died in 2014, aged 75, and Gay has finally decided to sell some of their collection through Melbourne-based Philips Auctions forthcoming fine and decorative arts on line sale ending from 10am Monday June 26 at 47 Glenferrie Road, Malvern.

“Robert wasn’t well when we moved to Melbourne to be closer to family but still thought he could run the business from here,” she said. “However, some of the items were so large and heavy that postage was really prohibitive and it was not really feasible.”

After he died, Gay toyed with the idea of taking the collection back to England but, for logistical reasons, it was not possible – and now her two sons are keen for her to dispose of items the family does not wish to keep.

The items she is parting with first are mainly antique Indian, Ceylonese and Burmese silver – much of it made for the English market – and Chinese export silver.

One of the more interesting is an Indian colonial (kutch) silver repousse three-piece tea set (lot 233) – along with an Indian silver openwork betel box (lot 234).

Another fascinating piece is an ornate Indian silver tea caddy (lot 228) and three Indian silver musician pieces (lot 227).

Two Indian silver repousse boxes (lot 235) and two Indian and Sri Lankan silver snuff boxes (lot 232) are other attractions, while a pair of antique Indian silver salvers (lot 230) has attracted plenty of attention.

A Sri Lankan .800 silver box (lot 226) is another item worthy of collector attention and unusual is a Ceylonese silver visiting card tray (lot 229).

Other items from the collection include an ornate Burmese silver betel nut box (lot 231), three Indian and Sri Lankan silver repousse boxes (lot 225) and a Chinese export silver mounted glass whiskey decanter (lot 236).

Gay said Robert was always keen to support what he regarded as charitable causes, such as the time in England he came across a Tibetan selling wares to raise money for an orphanage back in his own country.

“He didn’t appear to be selling much, so Robert bought his entire collection and brought it home,” she said.

Philips jewellery sale features a wonderful selection of rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings and wristwatches including a beautiful 4.53-carat sapphire and two stone diamond ring (lot 116) with a catalogue estimate of $28,000-$34,000.

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