Hurnall's favourite items up for grabs at Australian historical auction
Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 23rd November, 2020
The late Marvin Hurnall was a Melbourne-based fastidious collector of Australian pottery – so much so that most of the cupboards in his house were filled with works by famous names from the Australian genre such as William Ricketts, Robert Remued, Arthur Merric Boyd and Robert Prenzel.
Since his death, there have been several auctions to sell parts of his collection and Leski Auctions Australian & Historical sale from 11am Saturday November 28 and Sunday November 29 is the latest with the first 165 lots on offer to auction goers under the title “Gems from the Marvin Hurnall Collection”.
The Remued lizard vase (lot 19) is a typical example of one of Hurnall’s cherished pieces along with the John Perceval and Boyd painted coffee set (lot 79) and the Perceval tiled coffee table (lot 80) – all of which have previously been loaned for exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria.
Another Hurnall highlight is Prenzel’s possum mirror (lot 124) – with the master carver also having a “Waratah” bedroom suite (lot 569) made of Tasmanian fiddleback blackwood in the auction.
More Australian pottery is on show later in the sale with Margaret Kerr’s jug (lot 196) and Margurite Mahood’s bowl and teapot and jug (lots 218 and 219) typical of the items.
A 19th century ship’s figurehead painted in bright gold (lot 357) is a strong Scrimshaw & Maritime attraction, while an Australian-made sundial (lot 386) by Clint and an early Lotto game showing Sydney Harbour around 1850 (lot 389) are interesting to behold.
Collectors will be intrigued at the Emile Galle cameo glass vase featuring gum blossoms (lot 431) and there is a strong provenance linking a mid-19th century primitive open front kitchen dresser to famous Australian bushranger Ned Kelly’s family (lot 522).
In 1977, the current vendor purchased the dresser from “Paddy” Patrick Charles Griffiths (1907-1989), who was the youngest son of Grace Kelly Griffiths (1865-1940), one of Ned Kelly’s younger sisters.
In 1889, Grace married Edward Albert “Ned” Griffiths (1861-1939) and they had nine children.
A rare table (lot 562) by the architect who also designed Australia’s national capital Canberra, Walter Burley Griffin, is another find, while quirky and profound history can be seen in several silver items – including a four bottle decanter stand (lot 618).
The decanter stand was presented in September 1835 to surgeon John William Hallion by London stationer and rag merchant Elihu Willson as a token of his regret after the doctor fell through an unguarded opening in the shop floor while tending to the sick merchant’s wife.
Hallion visited Australia (the colony of Port Jackson, now Sydney) twice, first in 1816 as superintendent surgeon on the convict ship Alexander, and again in 1818 on the Isabella.
Lot 619 is a Steiner statue of an Aboriginal warrior, typical of the way indigenous Australians were portrayed by European artists who feared them and therefore kept them at a distance.
A silver cup (lot 620) records the earliest firefighting days in the Victorian colony and Australis’s earliest goldsmiths are on show in a combination vesta sovereign case (lot 674) and horse head brooch (lot 675).
The auction contains several interesting artworks including a couple of light-hearted pieces depicting Nicholas Chevalier’s amusement at the antics of Australian explorers John Sturt and Robert O’Hara Burke (lot 721) and Fred Woodhouse’s portrayal of a “horseman” 9lot 740).
Other artists of note include Thomas Clark (lot 730), Jessie Traill (lot 769), Lionel Lindsay (lots 780-784), Ray Crook (lots 797 and 798), Pro Hart (lots 847 and 877) and David Boyd (lot 886).