Famous Melbourne architect designed mansion contents hot auction property

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 8th February, 2023

The life of Melbourne architect John Beswicke (1847-1925) has once more been brought into sharp focus with the forthcoming auction of the complete contents of elegant Hawthorn residence ‘Ellerslie’, which he designed and was built in 1891.

Situated at 16 Harcourt Street, Hawthorn, the onsite auction – from 12pm Sunday February 19 – will be carried out by McCann Auctions and promises to attract a plethora of buyers.

The mansion’s collection, purchased from prominent antique dealers and auction rooms throughout Melbourne, is a testament to quality decorative arts and Australian art.

It features the finest collection of 19th century European sculpture, Sevres and Royal Worcester porcelain, 19th century French boulle furniture and clocks, and Australian art by such notable artists as Arthur Boyd, Norman Lindsay, Hugh Sawrey, Pro Hart, Emmanuel Phillips Fox and Taylor Ghee.

One of Melbourne’s leading 19th century architects, John Beswicke was responsible for the design of more than 300 buildings including Brighton, Malvern, Essendon, Hawthorn and Dandenong Town Halls.

Among his prolific output was a series of grand houses in Harcourt Street, many for his family, after his father Charles had bought land there in 1873.

His own residence at No. 29 ‘Rotha’ was built in 1887 followed 13 years later by the even grander ‘Talana’ on the corner of Auburn Road for his wife.

Situated on about 3,340 square metres of land, ‘Ellerslie’ – which has been sensitively renovated and restored to retain its beautiful period features such as stained glass windows, high ceilings, opulent fireplaces and timber and parquetry floors – is an ideal setting for this quality auction.

Right from the moment auction goers file past a pair of large bronze urns either side of the front entrance, they will be impressed at what greets them inside.

Eye catching is a 19th century French bronze dancing maiden by Dom Vander Vossche (lot 5) while a 19th century French serpentine shaped kingwood centre table (lot 10) fine floral marquetry inlay is bound to impress antique furniture lovers.

Likewise, the exhibition quality French two-door salon cabinet with its Corinthian columns and ivory, brass and mother of pearl floral decoration (lot 186) is another strong attraction.

Art lovers will be keen to see Charles Blackman’s (1928-2018) The Girl with the Flowers in the Red Dress (lot 117) which has a catalogue estimate of $80,000-$120,000 along with Hugh Sawrey’s (1919-1999) The Timber Haulers (lot 180) and Pro Hart’s (1928-2006) Mine Scene (lot 16).

A 19th century Sevres vase depicting a village scene (lot 15) is a must for porcelain collectors while a Roman centurion style helmet (lot 82) is among several replica period protective head gear on offer.

For clock collectors, a 19th century French gilt bronze mantel clock (lot 152) with hand painted Sevres romantic scenes might be just the piece they are looking for while vintage number plate aficionados will not be able to resist the veteran Victorian heritage example showing the numbers 1650 (lot 489) with a catalogue estimate of $20,000-$30,000.

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