Melbourne socialite and designer feature in comprehensive Gibson auction

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 15th November, 2021

Melbourne socialite the late Shirley Strauss(1925-2021) and designer Geoffrey Stewardson share the limelight at Gibson’s Auctions Interiors auction from 11am Saturday November 20 at 885-889 High Street, Armadale.

Their collections feature a comprehensive range of porcelain, paintings, upholstered furniture, jewellery, clothing and other collectables in a sale rarely seen in Australian auctions.

Shirley Strauss was the youngest daughter of clothing firm founder Ellison Bros, later known as Stafford Ellison, while from 1968 Stewardson was managing director of the interior design business Marly Interiors, which eight years later  became Riddell Marly following its merger with Riddell Interiors.

Both became extensive collectors – she because of her privileged social position (including being driven as a girl to school in a Rolls Royce and travelling throughout Europe and America where she lunched with child movie star Shirley Temple) and later marrying surgeon Dr Maurice Strauss, he because of his daily involvement with interior design and decoration.

With such a strong financial status, Shirley became one of Melbourne’s leading socialites – well-known for her flamboyant lifestyle complete with striking fashions, furs and jewellery and lived in a whole floor park side East Melbourne apartment for over 50 years until her death in 2021, aged 95.

Because of his involvement with the interior design and decoration of significant homes, Stewardson built up a significant collection of quality upholstered of a standard not generally seen today, paintings and decorative pieces.

One of the more eye-catching porcelain items in the sale is a large 19th century German Scheenballen floral encrusted vase entwined with a leafy branch supporting an exotic bird (lot 7) and another a large Royal Worcester hand painted urn by famous artist Harry Davis (lot 1).

A pierced and carved Louis XVI style hall mirror (lot 65) is bound to attract plenty of attention, along with a 19th century Louis XV style giltwood fauteuil (lot 79).

Other furniture pieces worthy of note include a Louis XVI style chamber suite (lot 112) and a marble topped Rococo style side table  (lot 117).

Shirley Strauss’s jewellery range is impressive with a retro sapphire floral pin brooch (lot 166) among the more colourful pieces and an antique diamond double-clip brooch (lot 182) breath-taking in its appearance.

Her expensive clothing items are also going under the hammer including several mink stoles and jackets and a vintage black embroidered jacket with mink trim (lot 206).

Other possessions include a collection of handbags such as that pictured in lot 228 and an Alma monogram creation by Louis Vuitton (lot 229).

Paintings also are a strong auction feature with Barrie Goddard’s Mururoa Cloud, 1973 (lot 299) among the more colourful and impressive. Born in 1941, Goddard is one of South Australia’s foremost landscape artists and maintained his studio practice while teaching from 1963 to 1996 at the South Australian School of Art.

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