Conductor's collection music to auction ears

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 24th April, 2017

Highly collectable musical items – including famous 19th century French composer Claude Debussy’s extravagant ivory conductor’s baton – belonging to the late Professor Richard Divall AO OBE, founding music director of the Victoria State Opera, should bring auction goers in droves to E.J. Ainger’s forthcoming special sale from 11am Sunday April 30 at 433 Bridge Road, Richmond.

A celebrated conductor, composer and scholar, Divall (who died in January at 71) grew up in Sydney and attended night school at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and Opera School before in 1972, aged 26, accepting an invitation to become Victoria State Opera’s first music director.

It was a position he held until 1996 when the organisation merged with Opera Australia, where he took on the role of principal resident conductor for another five years.

Divall’s support of Australian composers and performers was legendary and his notable scholarship of sacred and early Australian music led him to gain honours as an Officer of the British Empire and Order of Australia.

A celebrated conductor with a truly vast and wide-ranging output – conducting ballets, masses and more than 150 full operas including well-known stagings of Wagner, Strauss, Bizet and Verdi.

Divall’s academic works are housed in some of the finest institutes and he was a respected professor at many universities including King’s College, London, the University of Malta and, back in Australia, Monash University and the University of Melbourne.

His eye for quality can be seen in the contents of his estate, much of which has been bequeathed and already occupies various libraries and museums throughout the world.

Ainger’s auction has some of his finest collection pieces including excellent pieces of art, furniture, silver and pewter ware and Divall’s baby grand piano.

The sale also contains the estate of a notoriously private gentleman, enigmatic in his lifetime and an open and gifted conversationalist.

His collection was amassed over 60 years of travel, encompassing many world tours, and reflects the inspired, eclectic tastes of a highly educated, sharp witted and cultured individual.

As a result, the estate is wide ranging featuring Chinese and European furniture, Moralising and Surrealist art and a wonderful collection of clocks and watches – including several genuine museum pieces.

Born in continental Europe, the man was known for his sense of humour and warm hospitality – attributes that served him well as a chef in the major cities of the world, including New York, Mumbai, Tokyo and Geneva.

As a lover of travel, history and literature, he was well read, and fluently spoke many languages.

He lived all over the globe, owned a coastal property in Spain where he would frequently holiday, and eventually settled in Australia, his final resting place. 

His home was filled with antiques, many of them purchased on his travels. Fine Italian chests inlaid with camel bone stood next to a remarkable Australian centre table, crafted from exotic woods.

His expansive taste in art lead to a collection that included several artworks by Picasso sitting alongside paintings by Rembrandt, Albrecht Durer, Norman Lindsay, Pro Hart and Abram Louis Buvelot. 

Among the clocks for auction is a 19th century ormolu example with eight-day strike movement and a French gilt brass timepiece in the design of a shield.

The artwork features a signed Pablo Picasso lithograph entitled Bullfighting and the Munich School Phillip Graf’s Gabriel von Max’s Monkeys as Judges of Art.

Silver includes a George V silver tea service from makers CS Harris & Sons of London, while furniture includes 19th century Chippendale dining chairs,  a French marble top carved oak commode and a Louis XV style kingwood card table. 

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