Hairdressing guru and her love of antiques

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 2nd October, 2013

Madame Verna Greene is probably one of the best-known names in world hairdressing and stylist circles who, when she died on November 1 last year aged 96, left an enduring legacy as a business pioneer, visionary and world judge.

While hairdressing was her life, so too was her magnificent home at Wonga Park (built in 1982 and decorated by the well-known interior designer Colin Bowman), filled with magnificent furniture and collectibles – much of it brought back from the United States.

A typical example is the colourful, round papier-maché table with a tablecloth incorporated into the design. Another is the Lladro figure featured on the front cover of the coffee table book “Lladro The Art of Porcelain” published in 1981.

E.J Ainger Pty Ltd, which describes the sale as its best since the 2011 Adam Gallery auction in Queen Street, will auction her entire collection from 11am Sunday October 13 at 433 Bridge Road, Richmond.

The auction has many highlights – not least the Queen Elizabeth II silver and gilt candlesticks and goblets made in 1972 by English silversmith Stuart Devlin.

Another is a rare Venetian cushion mirror, along with a Baccarat gilt perfume stand and a polychrome Blackamoor in the shape of a Nubian figure.

A 46-centimetre high Royal Worcester potpourri is one of many of the company’s porcelain creations to feature in the sale, while a Charles X Sevres celeste blue vase and cover was another of Madame Verna’s treasured possessions.

Before the business world knew her as Madame Verna Greene, Verna Young grew up in country South Australia and at 15 was apprenticed to an Adelaide hairdressing salon.

She married Charles Greene, a young musician from the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, but soon became bored being a housewife.

At a time when married women were not expected to work, Madame Verna returned to the hairdressing industry and eventually secured her own premises in Adelaide Arcade –building the business to 11 salons throughout Australia.

Her career peaked when she was invited to Vienna as a world judge, passing judgement on the crème de la crème of Europe.

In 1963, Madame Greene established the Melbourne College of Hairdressing and Beauty Culture.

Other auction items include an early 20th century German automaton music box and a pair of Satsuma signed vases owned by the late Annabelle Brownell (daughter of Sir Arthur Rylah – minister in Sir Henry Bolte’s government).

There also are two Royal Worcester coffee sets – one by Mosley and the other by James Stinton – and a George VI silver shoe made in 1938 by Shepheard & Co.

Several pieces of Klytie Pate (1912-2010) pottery are featured including an earthenware lamp and vase and a ginger jar.

Among the furniture up for grabs is a George III mahogany bow front chest, a walnut banquet table and matching sideboard and bookcase by Walker & Sons London, and an early Victorian rosewood and marquetry table dating rom 1840 by Howard & Sons London. .

Jewellery features a massive 2.8-carat diamond ring, while paintings include Pasqual Giardino’s Joan of Arc 1994 and works by Charles Blackman and Harold Septimus Powers.

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