Unique Australian colonial auction furniture from Red River Gum

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 20th November, 2017

Red River Gum has been used to make what could possibly be a unique example of Australian colonial furniture.

The timber has been used in the construction of an early 19th century breakfront bookcase in the English Regency Gothic style fashionable in the 1830s and 1840s.

Part of a domestic estate from the Adelaide coastal suburb of Semaphore, Glanville and handed down through three generations, the bookcase was probably made during the acrimonious governorships of Lt Colonel Sir George Gawler and Captain George Gray from 1838-1845.

A similar design appears in J.C. Loudon’s 1833 London edition of his “Encyclopaedia of Cottage, Farm & Villa Architecture & Furniture”.

The bookcase is part of a two-day Scammell Auctions sale – an Australian and International Collection of Art, Furniture, Jewellery and objets d’art – from 1pm Sunday November 26 and 6pm Monday November 27 at 7 Chapel Street, Norwood in South Australia.

Its dimensions are 3.1 metres high, 2.44 metres wide and 73 centimetres deep.

A large gap in the crenelated pediment would suggest an intended armorial or crest for vice-regal or parliamentary use.

Interestingly, a report from the South Australian Register newspaper dated Saturday October 28, 1843 describes the furniture of the Legislative Council chamber at the time and may give a clue to the bookcase’s original use.

The report says the furniture is much admired, believed to be of native timber and manufactured in the colony.

There are 360 lots in Scammells “Australiana” themed auction with day one concentrating on Australian pottery and day two on colonial furniture.

Apart from the bookcase, which Scammells head of art and antiques Tobias Crilly expects to sell for more than $100,000, there is an 1860s cedar sideboard by Adelaide cabinetmaker George Debney, who operated from Rundle Street.

Another rare item is an 1840s red cedar sofa table made in Angaston which, with its simple design of tapering legs and single drawer should appeal to Australian collectors.

Scammells managing director Jason Harris believes there is a strong resurgence in Australiana and expects strong interest in the furniture and pottery items – and the sale is the perfect opportunity to obtain a unique Christmas gift for a loved one.

Some of the more interesting auction items include an 1880s Burmese Buddhist book of vows, a hand painted portrait miniature with Millefiori mosaic frame, and a pair of Chinese Cloisonne Ming Dynasty elephant vases.

One of the more intriguing lots is a wax seal containing the words “Keay Nabee and Naia-wi-Praia 1682” – ambassadors from the Sultan of Bantam to Great Britain.

Other fascinating items include the late 19th century tramp art deco crown of thorns house with crackle glazed windows and an 1870s Russian snow sleigh made from pine and beaten tin.

There also is a range of art works from leading Australian artists including David Bromley, Bernard Hesling, Anton Reibe, George French Angas, John Glover, Helen Hosking, Bruno Koslowski, Lawrence Daws and Francis Hinder.

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