Soprano's silver is music to Melbourne auction ears

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 8th October, 2019

One of Australia’s leading sopranos with a career in both Opera Australia and the Victorian State Opera is auctioning several pieces of quality sterling silver through Philips Auctions forthcoming sale from noon Sunday October 20 at 47 Glenferrie Road, Malvern.

The retired diva, who does not wish to be named but who has been honoured twice over the years in Queen’s Birthday honours for her services to music, appeared with many of the leading musical lights of her day.

Perhaps the most appealing piece of silver is an 1866 George II style spirit kettle and stand by London maker Robert Harper (lot 185) with a catalogue estimate of $4000-$6000.

Other pieces in her collection include a pair of 1896 neoclassical sterling silver candlesticks made in Sheffield by James Dixon & Sons (lot 180) and a pair of 1767 Georgian sterling silver gravy boats (lot 216) with 1789 ladles by Hester Bateman (1708-1794), who successfully ran her husband’s business for 30 years following his death and is considered one England’s finest silversmiths.

The business continued to be run by family members until 1843 when it closed and Bateman silverware continues to be popular among collectors.

The auction contains a comprehensive range of art including several paintings by leading watercolourist James Swinton Diston (1857-1940) famous for his Egyptian and European scenes.

Born in Scotland, Diston studied at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh before migrating in 1886 to Australia.

In the early 1900s he exhibited widely in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Hobart, Launceston and Broken Hill and was a well-known gallery guide and lecturer.

Diston’s auction watercolours include lot 351, Ferries and sailing craft on Venice lagoon,  Coastal sea and cliffs (lot 352), Across the Venice lagoon (lot 353) and Sailing boats and ferry (lot 354).

Among the furniture of note is a 1940s Louis XVI inspired Palisander display cabinet (lot 379), a 1960s teak coffee table by Schulim Krimper (1893-1971) and a late 1940 art deco rosewood enfilade (lot 419) from the Leleu factory, established in 1920 by provincial French designer Jules Leleu (1883-1961).

Leleu first came to prominence at the 1925 International Exposition of Decorative Arts in Paris where he won a grand prize – although he never achieved the international fame of Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann, Jean Michel Frank or Le Corbusier.

The House of Leleu was a family business and by the late 1930s sons Andre and Jean and daughter Paule were active partners.

Although Leleu’s furniture is often compared to that of Ruhlmann in the use of simplified shapes, exotic woods, marquetry and ivory inlay, his style evolved to adopt new materials like artificial lacquer, fibreglass, plastic and aluminium.

The Monday October 21 jewellery auction from 6pm features several interesting items including a star sapphire and diamond ring (lot 88), a ladies Boucheron wristwatch (lot 228), onyx earrings (lot 87) and a collection of loose opals (about 100) to be auctioned in various lots.


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