A lifetime of collecting leads to a special auction

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 27th November, 2018

When the late Neil Robertson was 12 years old he purchased his first antique – a decision that was to start him on a lifetime of collecting, particularly curios.

After completing high school, he worked in Australia and England as a bookseller before becoming the proprietor of Melbourne’s iconic Webber’s Booksellers, opened in 1931 by Margareta Webber.

His other interest was gardening – and to that end in 1988 he became involved in Australia’s Open Garden Scheme and served as its national executive officer for almost 20 years.

However, his Toorak apartment was a testament to his love of the finer things in life – none more so than a unique ebonised early 19thy century campaign chest (lot 16) with a plaque inscribed ‘Thomas Ferrier Hamilton Esq’ (1820-1905).

This, and the rest of his collection, will be auctioned from 11am Sunday December 2 by Leonard Joel at 333 Malvern Road, South Yarra.

Scottish-born, Hamilton was an Australian politician and sportsman who emigrated to Melbourne in 1839.

A local magistrate and justice of the peace, in 1872 he was elected to the Victorian Legislative Council, until 1884 sitting as a member for the Southern Province.

Hamilton also was a keen cricketer, where he played for and was a member and former president of the Melbourne Cricket Club.

Robertson’s collection of Australian art includes Dora Chapman’s (1911-1995) work of art Study for Self Portrait c1940 (lot 308).  

The work was painted during Chapman’s stint as a student at the Adelaide School of Arts, where she studied under Marie Tuck, Dorrit Black, Leslie Wilkie, Louis McCubbin and Ivor Hele.

Other art works in the collection include works such as an unknown 18th century artist’s Portrait of a Young Maiden (lot 10).

A 19th century Victorian Gothic Revival clock (lot 2) is an interesting piece while a collection of Ralph Wood style figures and other early Stafford porcelain (lot 20 and lot 175) should bring collectors running.

An early 19th century Anglo-Indian rosewood stationery box (lot 113) is well worth seeing along with a 19th century continental stained walnut and beech coffer (lot 112).

Tea caddies are another fascinating part of the collection including lot 156 – two early 19th century tortoiseshell versions.

Among the furniture is a late 19th century Victorian leather inset desk (lot 166) while a late 19th century ecclesiastical diorama in the form of a church altar in a walnut box adds a religious touch.

Among the extensive sterling silver collection are two Georgian creamers and a brandy pot (lot 265) from London circa 1754 and 1752 respectively.

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