Rare bird volumes auction vital for collectors

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 27th October, 2014

A rare set of six original Gracius J. Broinowski books entitled The Birds of Australia, dated 1890 and belonging to well-known Melbourne bird enthusiast the late Barbara Tunbridge, will be a major drawcard at Christian McCann’s forthcoming auction from noon Saturday November 9 at 426 Burnley Street, Richmond.

A recognised artist and leading ornithologist of his day, Broinowski was born in 1837 in Poland and 20 years later arrived at Portland, Victoria after swimming ashore from a windjammer following a trying journey from England.

After several years in various jobs, Broinowski was employed by a firm of publishers – travelling extensively to paint landscape and township scenes, which were offered as prizes in art union draws.

His first commercial venture into natural history was a commission to supply the NSW Department of Public Instruction with pictures of Australian bird and mammals – the type of work that was to perpetuate his name.

Mounted on board and varnished, these illustrations were hung in the classrooms of many schools during the 1880s. However, instead of taking thousands of copies as originally arranged, the department took only 500.

Broinowski subsequently had several sets bound with appropriate text – copies of which can be found at the Mitchell and National Libraries.

The Birds of Australia, comprising 40 parts in six volumes with 300 full-page illustrations and notes on over 700 species, was begun in 1887 and completed four years later.

Other major auction features include an important early bronze temple with silver inlay and a Francois Linke bedroom suite.

The auction contains an exceptional collection of French antique furniture including a marquetry credenza, commodes, gilt salon mirrors, bureau-plats and vitrine.

Chinese items feature antique ivory including figure groups, and horse warrior and polychrome figures.

Early 17th and 18th century oak and Dutch marquetry, and an 18th century Dutch marquetry long case clock, are other attractions for auction goers.  

George III furniture is another drawcard and a rare English antique harp signed by Sebastian Eraros.

Australian and international artists include John Perceval, Sidney Nolan and Dudley Drew, while there are several French bronzes such as an important dancer figure by Briand.

There are several fine pieces of French and English porcelain to whet collector appetites including Sevres, Meissen and Royal Worcester vases and three rare KPM panels.

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