Australian historical auction pays tribute to convict days

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 21st November, 2022

In a fascinating look at Australia’s convict past, Melbourne-based Leski Auctions two-day Australian & Historical sale has a section on convicts and bushrangers that pays tribute to the country’s penal settlement days.

One of the items is an 18-carat gold pocket watch (lot 249) presented to the former Chief District Constable of Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) George Brown “as a token of respect and esteem on his leaving the colony”.

The following lot (250) is a beautiful suite of sterling silver items presented in 1840 to Captain Alured Tasker Faunce (1808-1856) by Queanbeyan and District inhabitants “in appreciation of his conduct as Police Magistrate”.

A soldier and police magistrate, Faunce was from a military family and the elder son of Major-General Alured Dodsworth Faunce of Clifton near Bristol in England.

As a lieutenant, Faunce arrived in August 1832 in Sydney and retired as a captain four years later to become the police magistrate at Brisbane Water where he gained the nickname “Ironman Faunce” for his firm stance on crime.

In November 1837, Faunce, who had married in Liverpool two years earlier and ended up with nine children, purchased 738 hectares of land around Queanbeyan and held the first sitting of the Queanbeyan, Molonglo, Gundaroo and Monaro bench soon after – becoming a popular and respected figure in the district.

The auction, which begins at 10am Saturday December 3 and continues at the same time the next day, will be held at 727-729 High Street, Armadale and features a range of categories all pertaining to the sale theme.

Lot 1, a Victoria Art Pottery vase, is especially fascinating as it was discovered in the dusty corner of a garage. Equally stunning and rare is an Alan Finlay vase (lot 13) which had been “hidden” in a local private collection for many years.

Jewellery is a strong feature of the auction and particularly suitable for Christmas presents with lots like an art deco ring and brooch (lots 310a and 310b) having widespread appeal.

Unfortunately, wax profile portraiture has become a lost art, but in this auction buyers can still get a taste of what it was like with a rare pair featuring Dr William Bedford and Governor Charles Fitzroy (lots 519 and 520) by Theresa Walker, Australia’s first female sculptor.

A significant sporting memorabilia piece – a recently discover silver-gilt, prize fighter’s belt presented in September 1881 to Englishman James Mace (1831-1910), often called the “father of boxing” by his Australian friends and admirers (lot 389) – heads the silver section.

 The military section, which begins Sunday’s sale, is noteworthy with an Egypt medal with Suakin 1885 clasp (lot 686) among the highlights.

The medal was awarded to “1205. GUN: J. CROMBIE. N.S.W. ARTY” – part of the New South Wales Contingent sent to Sudan in what was Australia’s first true foreign military engagement.  

Previously unknown correspondence (lot 695) between Australian World War I General Sir John Monash (1865-1931) and an “old flame” Ada Benjamin (nee Krakowski 1864-1937) would highlight any auction sale.

It comprises 11 letters written during the turbulent and hugely consequential years that included his World War I service and provide several fascinating insights into the life of one of Australia’s most important military men, who also made a significant contribution to civilian life with Melbourne’s Monash University named after him.

One, dated September 7, 1911, is a hand-written letter of bereavement to Ada on hearing that her husband Sam Benjamin had passed away.

Among the paintings and other artworks on offer are works by well-known Australian artists including Sir Arthur Streeton (lot 960), Penleigh Boyd (lot 937) Charles Wheeler (lot 962), Leonard French (lot 1020), Ray Crooke (lot 1070), Ernest Buckmaster (lot 1001) and Sydney Long (lot 964).

A pair of recently “discovered” Brett Whiteley stamp designs (lot 1109) certainly expands this iconic Australian artist’s catalogue raisonne, while artworks from the estate of the late Joyce Evans (lots 1184-1202) and the late Richard Chamerski (lots 1203-1266) add to buyer choice. 

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