McPherson family collection goes under the hammer

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 3rd August, 2016

An Emmanuel Phillips Fox painting entitled The Avenue that has not been seen in public for 100 years is a major highlight of the estates of Lady Sidney Orme McPherson and her daughter Marion Orme Page to be auctioned from 10am on site at 216 Domain Road, South Yarra through E.J. Ainger.

In its original John Thallon frame, the painting was originally part of the artist’s estate sale on February 29, 1916 at the Upper Athenaeum Hall in Collins Street, Melbourne where it sold for 15 guineas.

The McPhersons were an integral part of the Melbourne establishment. Sir Clive was managing director of a national pastoral company, Australian Wheat Board chairman, director of both the Commonwealth and National Banks and a trusted adviser to Prime Ministers Stanley Bruce, Joe Lyons and Sir Robert Menzies.

He also was a long serving member of the Royal Melbourne Hospital Board – a role Marion assumed on his retirement.

As a family, the McPhersons collected paintings, furniture, porcelain, silver, books and jewellery and never discarded anything.

So when Marion died late last year aged 97, the South Yarra house and six garages and the family pastoral property Tarramia at Mulwala contained furniture, books, paintings and porcelain – much of which had not been unpacked since its purchase in the 1930s.

Another major auction highlight is Samuel Thomas Gill’s By the Water Mill – one of his larger works – which was discovered unframed in a seaside house on the Mornington Peninsula and authenticated in the early 1950s by Rathdowne Galleries director Joan McClelland.

The recent exhibition of Gill’s work at Victoria’s State Library and the publication of a significant book on his art has led to a major reassessment of this somewhat forgotten early colonial artist.

The painting Droving Sheep by Dutch artist Johannes Hermanus Barend Koekkoek (1840-1912) should also attract plenty of attention.

A member of the world renowned family of Dutch artists, Koekkoek initially followed his father’s romantic style until, under The Hague School’s influence, he transitioned to a kind of realism later in life.

Among the quality silver on offer is an Edward VI standard silver tankard of Charles II style carrying the McPherson coat of arms, a Victorian silver jug featuring an embossed rural landscape with horses and figures and a silver patch box presented to Lady McPherson by Queen Elizabeth II after her coronation in 1953.

Another interesting item is the four-piece silver plated tea service loaned to Victoria’s Governor Sir Dallas Brookes during Queen Elizabeth’s 1954 visit to Australia and again two years later for the visit of the Queen Mother.

The family porcelain collection features a Royal Doulton coffee set for six – each piece signed by C. Hart and painted with landscapes of various British castles.

A pair of early Victorian Minton vases and covers, purchased from Max Carey in the early 1980s, is another collector attraction. 

Among the furniture is a late 19th century Italian Renaissance style marble top walnut centre table, a 17th century Italian credenza, a 17th century Italian secretaire and an early 20th century doll’s house Marion owned as a child.

Other interesting items include a fine 16th/17th century Tyrolean (Austria) polychrome and carved wood figure of a saintly bishop wearing a mitre and holding a book and a collection of Dame Nellie Melba letters to family members. 

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