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Frederick Strange, View of Launceston from Sandhill c.1858

Frederick Strange - View of Hobart Town circa 1850

An important Freshly Discovered Colonial work of art by a notable Convict Artist.

This small but detailed watercolour was recently discovered in a Geelong residence. It is no surprise that it turns out to be an important piece of colonial art: it comes directly from the collection of Clifford Craig, the great early collector of Australiana.

Frederick Strange was born in 1807, and claimed to be a ‘portrait and house painter’ from Nottingham, according to records from 1837 when he was arrested for robbery in Colchester. This involved the theft of a number of items from a number of shops, including silver spoons and a gold pocket watch which he was wearing when arrested.

The name ‘Frederick Strange’ may well have been an alias given to the court at this time. Sentenced to Transportation for Life to Van Diemans Land, he was sent on board the ‘Neptune’ late 1837, and arrived in Hobart in early 1838. He was initially ‘unassigned’ – most other convicts were given work in the local region – but an article in the Colonial Times in 1840 shows he was ‘assigned to Mr Woodcock Graves’.

Note: this evidence has apparently been overlooked by previous researches: we have discovered a report in an 1840 Tasmanian paper that adds a fascinating context for the early years of Frederick Strange in Tasmania.

John Woodcock Graves had arrived in Hobart in 1833, and set up a business which advertised itself as able to ‘repair, paint, and varnish carriages, undertake Portrait Miniature and Heraldic painting in Oil and Water, as well as undertake House, Sign and Ornamental Painting’. Strange being assigned to this business was logical, considering his claimed background in England.
However…. things were not good at the Graves establishment.
In the early 1840’s, John W Graves spent some time in the Debtors Goal and Hospital for the Insane at New Norfolk.
This is probably directly related to the 1840 Colonial Times report (above), where despite Strange’s good behaviour & hard work, he claimed Graves was irrational – “so outrageous that the man (ie Strange) is in fear for his life….” .

Colonial Times, Tasmania 1840

Frederick Strange appeared to claim the protection of the Government, he being assigned to Mr. Woodcock Graves.
It appeared from his statement that he is an artist, and that he has, ever since he has been assigned to Mr. Graves, been the principal support to the family, and entirely so at the time Mr Graves was away at Sydney; and although he had been at all times unremitting in his endeavours for the family, his master was in the habit of beating him, and has latterly become so outrageous , that the man is in fear of his life; his worship very properly returned him to Government.

Colonial Times, Hobart, 1 December 1840

Soon after Frederick Strange had been ‘returned’, John Woodcock Graves was sent to the “Debtors Goal and Hospital for the Insane at New Norfolk” – for ‘insanity, although probably also edging on the status of ‘Debtor’ if Strange’s claims of being the one who did all the work in the business was true. Frederick Strange is recorded in 1841 as being employed as a ‘Government messenger’, and granted a ‘pass’ of freedom the same year. He set himself up for a respectable life in Launceston as a portrait painter and art teacher.

In a newspaper report in June 1843, he describes himself as ‘…a prisoner of the Crown, employed as a watchman at the Female House of Correction…’ . This article is an interesting read, describing a moment of drama he found himself mixed up in one day in Launceston:

The irony is remarkable: In England, Frederick Strange had been convicted for theft, the key item identified as a pocket watch; transported to Tasmania, he was then witness to the opportunistic theft of four pocket watches, by soldiers no less, and gave chase, so when the shop assistant caught up with them, Frederick Strange was standing there with them in his hands… having picked them up after the thieves ran straight towards him and threw them on the ground just three yards away!
The soldiers were sentenced to ‘transportation for life’ – and one made the enigmatic remark “I am much obliged to you, and would be happy to do the same for you.” Perhaps there is more to this story than meets the eye…?

Frederick Strange received his ‘ticket of leave’ in 1845, and a conditional pardon in 1849. Throughout the 1850’s he was actively painting and exhibiting his works, while always looking for commissions. He seems to have found favour amongst the Scottish community, and a small number of his portraits survive. His advert in 1855 advertised ‘Lessons given in Landscape Drawing, Portraits painted in oil, or taken by Daguerreotype’.

The inclusion of ‘dagerotype photography’ in his business is interesting. No ‘known’Strange’ photographic images have been discovered, and in some ways it is at complete odds to his profession, as a topographical artist. His images were intended to record the landscapes of his time – but the emergence of absolutely accurate photographs of the same scenes, which took a fraction of the time to produce that a detailed watercolour took to paint, would have rapidly taken away from his painting business. Perhaps the colour factor, which meant a much more pleasing image on the wall, was the one thing that still appealed to his customers.

However, within a few years of the 1855 advert, Frederick Strange lost interest in his painting, and is listed as a ‘Grocer’. He died in 1873, but nothing is attributed to these last years of his eventful life.

Frederick Strange (1807-1873) – View of Launceston, c.1858. Watercolour and pencil on paper – 35.7×21.9cm. Moorabool Antiques, Geelong

Launceston, 1860 :oil painting by Frederick Strange,
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales


The interest in convict artists developed in the first half of the 20th century. For Frederick Strange, the key researcher who ‘re-discovered’ him was Clifford Craig. Coming from Melbourne to practice as a doctor in Hobart in the 1920’s, where he fell in love with the early colonial history.

Together with his wife Edith, (who was the driving force behind the establishment of the National Trust of Australia in the 1960’s), the Craigs accumulated a collection of colonial furniture that came to be considered one of the best of its kind in Australia. Having amassed an extensive assortment of early ‘Tasmaniana’, comprising documents, books, maps and prints, they sold 2350 items at a three-day auction at Launceston in 1975.

Prior to this he co-published Early Colonial Furniture in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land in 1972.

In 1963 he wrote (along with Isabella Mead) the first in-depth examination of Frederic Strange, ‘Frederick Strange – Artist – c.1807-1873’ , published in the Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania.

He lists the known Strange works at the end of his article – 35 in total, all in public collections except for the final two, which are ‘… privately owned in Hobart but no details are available’….

This painting doesn’t appear on his 1963 list, and may well have been one of the two works in Hobart, or an example he found in subsequent years.  It was inherited by his son, and the last artwork kept by him as he downsized, before coming to Moorabool Antiques.

View-of-Hobart-Frederick-Strange c.1850

The watercolour came to Geelong when he retired there in the 1980’s, and has been in the Craig family ever since.

View-of-Hobart-Frederick-Strange c.1850


It’s an interesting exercise to compare the present-day view with Strange’s watercolour.

Left ImageRight Image

Slide the line to see a then / now comparison.

We can pinpoint the location Strange sketched from as being along the route now known as ‘Normanstun Road’.
The identity of this suggested location is supported considering the magnificent cart-load of flour sacks passing by: it is the route from the flour mill built at the mouth of the Cataract Gorge in the 1840’s.

This Frederick Strange watercolour compares well with the watercolour View of Launceston sold by Bonhams, 22nd April 2023 (click to see). The size is almost identical, being 20.5×32.5 compared to our 21.9×35.7cm.

Launceston from the South – late 1850’s – Stevens Collection, Melbourne

The other work by Strange that must be noted is in the Stevens Collection, Melbourne, and was exhibited in the 2017 Exhibition “The Enigmatic Mr Strange”, Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. This is another view of Launceston, from almost the same position, with the same post-in-rail fence and even apparently the same cart being pulled by a four-horse team – although the cargo on our example is much more neatly loaded!

View-of-Launceston-Frederick-Strange c.1858
Frederick Strange – View of Launceston, circa 1858 – Moorabool Antiques, Geelong

Resources on Frederick Strange:

Frederick Strange Death Notice
Frederick Strange’s death notice, 1873

An interesting local Geelong connection : Convict artist paints another Convict, with both of them finding success and freedom in Australia”

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Ellen Ross, artist, with Dickens & Australian High Court connections….

Ellen Ross / Ellen Ross - Mallam - Artist

A fascinating piece of English porcelain has come to Moorabool, which if it wasn’t for the original 1876 exhibition label on the back, would just be an ‘interesting amateur-decorated decorative plate’. However, the name, date & place allows us to extract a story from this piece, which includes a close association with Charles Dickens, and a High Court Judge in Australia!

The porcelain is an anonymous blank, probably of Staffordshire manufacture. Onto it is painted an ‘Aesthetic Movement’ portrait, as was popular in the mid-late Victorian era. Such a piece is not unusual in the Antique World, as it was a favourite occupation for young ladies to learn to paint on porcelain. Watercolour painting was a standard part of any young ladies education, and it is noted that the artist of this piece, Ellen Ross, was a fine watercolorist. A step up from watercolour was painting onto porcelain. For this, studios ran classes, and for the more wealthy, a painting instructor would bring the materials to the students, take away their work to be fired, and bring back the results.

The important part of this plate is the paper label on the back. While it is signed with an elaborate monogram, there’s no record of this in the literature; the paper label, however, is the vital clue as it declares her name ‘Ellen Ross’.

Ellen Ross / Mallam monogram mark
Ellen Ross / Mallam’s monogram mark ‘ER’. This mark is not recorded anywhere else in the literature – and other pieces by her sighted are signed ‘Ellen Mallam’ in full. She was married in 1868, and this piece was made 1876, or slightly earlier, 1874-5…. several years after marriage. If you look at the top of the ‘R’ in the monogram, it could be interpreted as an ‘M’ – probably intentional.
Howell & James ‘Art Pottery Exhibition’ label, dated 1876, with Ellen Ross filled in as painter of exhibit no.3. The partially lost text next to it may have been a title – or could it be an update on her name – the second word looks distinctly like ‘Mallam’, her married name…

Ellen Ross is not noted as an artist or decorator – but we have the entry in Howell & James’s exhibition catalogues, where she is recorded as ‘Mrs Mallam (Ellen Ross)’. Clearly she was married around this time, and with the dates, place & two names it is possible to pinpoint her;
Ellen Mary Anne Hyde Ross, born in St Pancras in 1837 (or 42, or 43 in other online records!?), she married solicitor Dalton Robert Mallam in 1868 in Kensington, London. They had 6 children.

Charles Dickens, miniature at the Dickens Museum, London, painted by Janet Ross (Barrow), aged 18
Charles Dickens, miniature at the Dickens Museum, London, painted by Janet Ross (Barrow), when aged 18, and not yet famous.

Ellen Mallam came from an interesting family; they were well-off, and close to the Dickens family. Their father was a solicitor & well connected.
Ellen’s older sister Janet showed great promise as a miniature artist, and went on to become a miniaturist of note. Her work is held in major collections, such as the Victoria & Albert Museum. She married into the Dickens family, and was his aunt. Fascinatinly, one of her early works is an image regarded as the earliest depiction of Charles Dickens, now in the Charles Dickens Museum, London. In return, Dickens may have immortalised her in his book ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ as ‘Miss La Creevy’, a ‘miniature painter’….

As a young lady, part of Janet’s education would have included drawing & painting. For this, a ‘painting master’ would have been called on. His lessons would have included watercolour painting – and the skill of both Ellen and Janet would have led to their advancement to lessons in the art & technique of miniature painting.

We can imagine the young Ellen growing up with older sister Janet, and seeing her success as a miniature artist; perhaps they had the same painting master? Or did her older sister teach her? Certainly, there is a strong likeness to the technique of miniature painting in Ellen’s works, namely the use of pure strokes of colour in a series of lines.

That it was considered a prestigious occupation worthy of a Lady is shown in the list of the artists who presented pieces for the annual China Painting Exhibition held at the Regent Street store of Howell & James, Jewellers with premises on Regent Street and highly regarded dealers in luxury. Lady Willoughby, Viscountess Hood (neé Havell), the Countess of Warwick, and Colonel Hope Crealock of South Africa’s ‘Zulu War’ fame were all painters who exhibited. Indeed, Lady Augusta Cadogan, daughter of 3rd Earl Cadogan & Aunt of Queen Victoria was both a patron, and exhibited works by her own hand in 1877 and 1878.

In fact, the gentle art of China Painting was worth of the attention of Queen Victoria herself:

Ellen Mallam ne. Ross presented to Queen Victoria 1878
Ellen Mallam ne. Ross presented to Queen Victoria 1878

She also appears in the Yorkshire Industrial Exhibition, held in York 1879.

The Australian Connection

We’re always looking for links to ‘down-under’, which adds a local context to a piece. This work unexpectedly came up with one: a son of Ellen & Dalton Mallam,
Ross Ibbotson Dalton Mallam, was born in 1878. Like his father, he entered the legal profession, moved to Adelaide Australia in 1902, and ended up a Supreme Court Judge (1928-33) in the Northern Territory, before ill-health led to him relocating to Melbourne. You can read more about him on the NT Supreme Court’s website >

It’s been an interesting study, to discover the connections and stories circling around this portrait plate. Ellen Ross / Mallam was certainly born into an interesting place and time, being so familiar with the Dickens family, and receiving high praise for her artistic skills from none other than Queen Victoria……. There may be other pieces from Ellen’s early stages still to be discovered, signed with the monogram ‘ER’ as seen here – and definitely more with her full married name, Ellen Mallam. Let us know if you have any!

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Introducing…. artist A. E. Jobson 1868-1955

A E Jobson pastel - with restorations

An interesting recent discovery by Moorabool was this small pastel scene of an Australian beach.
Signed ‘A. E. Jobson’, it is an interesting chalk sketch, done on a coarse textured grey toned paper.

Looking for the artist proved to be pointless; they are not recorded anywhere, and seem to belong to the class of ‘talented amateur’. We believe we have a likely candidate, a local Melbourne author who used the name ‘A.E.Jobson’.

AE Jobson Signature
AE Jobson’s Signature

As with many artistic people, it seems that Jobson could draw as well as write. It was writing which came to dominate, as they found success when they began publishing their short stories.

A report in the ‘Queensland Times’ sheds some light:

they have obtained the ‘sole rights’ to a ‘remarkable clever series of stories’ which they promise are just like Sherlock Holmes….

The first story to be published is interesting. Titled ‘The Hercules Cameo’, it is a story about a carved cameo of Hercules – purchased at Christies for 3000 Guineas – stolen by a German prince, and recovered by a private eye named Russel Howard. Hobson clearly had an active interest in the art world.

Over the next few years, we traced 12 newspaper stories published by A.E. Jobson:

Over the next few years, we traced 12 newspaper stories published by A.E. Jobson:

  • 1: The Hercules Cameo
  • 2: The Seventh Burglary
  • 3: The Removal of the Millionaire
  • 4: The Case of Lord Ponderry
  • 5: The Scheming Lady
  • 6: The Two Wax Candles
  • 7: The Lady with the Pince-Nez
  • 8: The Modern Highwayman
  • 9: The Prince’s Letter
  • 10: The Man Who Stole the Child
  • 11: The Fire Insurance Matter
  • 12: The Open Shaft

But who was A. E. Jobson?

These ‘AE Jobson’ stories, and at least one published book, never give the name of the author beyond the initials. There is a distinct possibility that this was intentional, to hide the author’s true identity. The ‘Queensland Times’ article of 1909 does refer to ‘him’, but they were not necessarily aware of exactly who was writing the stories, being rather a long way away. This is something often seen in the world of literature. Clearly, some research is needed!

Searching the available records, two candidates appear with the right initials and in the right context, an Arthur Earnest Jobson, Banker in Sydney, and Adelaide Ellen Hobson, daughter-in-law to prominent Victorian businessman, John Jobson JP.
Nothing came of researching Arthur the banker, but Adelaide was a different matter.

John Jobson, Williamstown, c. 1895- father-in-law to Adelaide Ellen Jobson

Adelaide Ellen Jobson was born at Port Adelaide, 1868, the eldest in her family. Her father, Stedman, died in 1887. Three years later, she married Charles Jobson, son of John Jobson, JP, businessman, Williamstown Football Club president, & Mayor of Williamstown (Victoria) in 1885.  

The pastel has a certain ‘family’ feel to it: there are 6 children represented, plus a few adults. 

The scene could well be Port Phillip Bay, somewhere near Spotswood where a day’s outing with the family would be likely-  with Williamstown’s ‘back beach’ being a prime candidate. 

Williamstown back-beach, 1906 postcard

We propose Adelaide Ellen Jobson was a very creative lady, who raised a family of five, but longed to write and paint to express herself; when her oldest children were entering their teens, she would have had more time to dedicate to writing, and so her first few stories were submitted to the papers for publication. Over the next decade, she produced quite a number of fictional books. A quick read – as they are all rather short stories, suitable for a newspaper – certainly shows an active mind, and perhaps we can see a female perspective: one story, written in 1916, is an interesting study. 

It begins “Samson Greene was an artist, and it happened on one day in September, or it may have been in early October, that he was in Bathurst. Anyway, when he rose in the morning the sun was shining briskly upon everything.”   

The character Samson is something of an old-fashioned gentleman artist, but by the end of the story, he is helplessly in love with a girl he ‘accidentally’ met while out painting – except the whole thing is a set-up by the girl, who has set a trap for him which he falls for, hook line & sinker!  It has a definite twinge of ‘Barbara Cartland’ to it, and attributing it to a female author makes perfect sense. 

Adelaide Jobson, Beach at Williamstown, c. 1910
Adelaide Jobson, Beach at Williamstown, c. 1910

Her other artistic enterprise was pastel art. This small work documents a lazy day at the beach very well, with family members relaxing and children playing. She had five children between 1892-1909, so if this piece was dated to around 1910-15, the children shown could well be her own. The location is not distinct, but the general layout of the water/land conforms to the local area they grew up in; Williamstown has a beach with beautiful white sand like this, and the distant higher ground could be the far side of Port Phillip Bay, a scene still the same today. 

Martha Walter oil painting, beach scene
American artist Martha Walter, beach scene from the same period in oils.

An interesting comparison can be made with American artist Martha Walter. She was active in the early 20th century, the same date as the work we are examining, and the similarity is unmistakable. Rather than a direct influence, it is probably just a result of the shared ‘beach culture’ seen in America and Australia – the gathering of families, the bathing suits – combined with an impressionist style which was the international vogue at the time.
The price is certainly different, with Walter’s work bringing many thousands for even minor paintings!

Adelaide Ellen Jobson could have been a notable artist, but her success as a published author, and no doubt also her dedication to her large family, restricted her opportunities. She’s a talented amateur, previously unrecorded.

We’d love to hear anything else you may have to add to this very brief répertoire!

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C. Dudley Wood’s portrait of RAAF officer Peter N. Munro

Clifford Dudley Wood was born in Geelong,

This splendid wartime watercolour portrait depicts a very distinct character.

By his stripes he’s an NCO Sargent, and reading his brevet – the badge with ‘AG’ and a wing on his shirt – he was an air-gunner in the Australian Airforce.

It’s a signed watercolour by Clifford Dudley Wood. He was born in Geelong, studied at Swinburne in the early 1920’s, and exhibited with the Victorian Artists Society. He became a commercial artist, but always followed his own path in oils & watercolours. By the 1940’s he was a successful artist in his own right, being a finalist in the 1941 Archibald Prize twice . He has been described as a ‘Romantic Realist’.

During the War years, he was posted to both Queensland and Darwin, his role…. camouflage artist! While in military service, he produced a number of art works. Several feature RAAF officers, like this handsome one of WO Peter N. Munro of Orange.

Clifford Dudley-Wood's portrait of RAAF officer Peter Napier Munro, 1945

MUNRO, PETER NAPIER : Service Number – 405764 : Date of birth – 11 Jul 1918 : Place of birth – BRISBANE QLD : Place of enlistment – BRISBANE

Official Military Record Entry
PN Munro- RAAF - Dudley-Wood's inscription to the back.
Sgt. PN Munro- RAAF – Dudley-Wood’s inscription to the back.

Munro was a WO – a Warrant Officer – in the RAAF, serving in the No.21 Squadron.

No. 21 Squadron

No 21 squadron was formed in 1936 at Laverton, near Melbourne, and entered the war years with the task of training and convoy escort duty. As war with Japan became more likely, it was moved to Singapore, and then on to Malay in late 1941, where 5 days later they had their first taste of conflict, and it didn’t go well; they were pulled back to Singapore, then to Java, and shipped back to Fremantle in 1942 and disbanded.

21st Squadron undergoing training at Laverton – the man far left looks a little like PN Munro…

At this time, Munro was married:

A very quiet wedding took place at the Presbytery on Wednesday night, when Elizabeth Patricia (Beth), only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Pat Williams, of Summer Street, was married to Sergeant Air Gunner Peter Munro, R.A.A.F., son of the late Mr. Munro and Mrs. Munro, of Brisbane. The bride looked very attractive in a beige tucked frock, white hat and gloves and navy accessories and a shoulder spray of lily of the valley……….

LEADER newspaper, Orange – Friday 30 October 1942:

One year later, Squadron No. 21 was re-formed in South Australia, and quickly transferred to Queensland with updated American planes. After four months of training, the 21st was transferred to New Guinea. Here it used Vultee Vengeance dive-bombers, but as the Japanese advance was stopped and then reversed, longer range aircraft were needed. No. 21 was withdrawn to Queensland, and the squadron trained on American bombers, the Consolidated B-24 ‘Liberator’. It was probably at this stage that Munro, the subject of this painting, was trained and became a part of the crew of MJ-W. A gossip column in the Orange ‘Leader’ follows his story:

Flight Sergeant Peter Munro received his promotion to the rank of Flight Sergeant in May last.

LEADER newspaper, Orange – Friday 3rd December 1943

October 1944 mentions a baby daughter has been born, and Peter Munro is home on leave from the Air Force. By the end of the year, the squadron transferred to Fenton airbase, south of Darwin, where a series of photos of the crew were taken. In the following photograph, we see the dapper Peter N. Munro, dressed in the same shirt with the same insignia with ‘AG’ indicating ‘Air Gunner’. This meant he had one of the most dangerous jobs of all: the gun torrent either at the front or the back was a primary target for any attacking aircraft, as it could potentially guard the bomber from any attack.

Left ImageRight Image

As you can see above, Munro is easily identified by C. Dudley Wood’s excellent watercolour depiction.

Meanwhile, the stiff resistance in New Guinea meant Japanese paused, then withdrew; No. 21 squadron flew constant missions from Fenton in the first months of 1945, making the use of the long range the bombers had.

The final conflict for the squadron were the landings at Borneo, with the Battle of Balikpapan on July 1st commencing with large landing parties of Australian troops, preceded by multiple bombing raids by the RAAF. These were the last flights, as enemy resistance was gradually overcome. Two months later, on the 2nd September, Japan surrendered. One more flight remained, and Munro’s flight home was recorded…..

Orange’s ‘Leader’ paper reports on the 14th September, 1945:

Clifford Dudley-Wood's portrait of RAAF officer Peter Napier Munro, 1945

“W.O. Peter Monro, R.A.A.F., left Borneo by plane on Sunday and was in Darwin for tea and Sydney for breakfast. He arrived in Orange on Tuesday afternoon for six weeks leave with his wife and baby Cherilyn.”

More gossip column reports speak of ‘Sergeant Air Gunner Peter Munro and his pretty young wife…. this attractive pair are always a welcome addition to the Orange Younger Set’.

We can see this character in the eyes of the handsome, strong character Dudley-Wood has painted.

So back to the original question: where did Clifford Dudley Wood and Peter Munro cross paths?

The base at Lowood, Queensland, was where they may have met, but Dudley Wood was also sent to Darwin. He may have come across Munro there, and there are a scattering of other military portraits it would be interesting to cross-reference with.

Being a commercial artist, it is probable that Clifford Dudley-Wood was able to secure commissions from people in the services like Peter Munro, as what better way to surprise a loved one – like Mrs Peter Monroe back in Orange – with an image of his very handsome mug in uniform!

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Australian Portraits: A ‘unique’ Sir Henry Parkes profile, + Miniature of Lady Parkes as a young girl.

Sir Henry Parkes & Lady Eleanor Parkes

Australia became a Nation in 1901, but it was a long process that made this possible. The six far-flung colonies had each developed in their separate ways, and it was the perseverance of Sir Henry Parkes that brought them together. He deserves the title ‘The Father of Federation’.

An amusing Australian adaptation…. Charles Dickens as Sir Henry Parkes!

Moorabool has recently discovered two items that relate to Sir Henry Parkes and his wife, Lady Parkes.
The first is a cast-iron plaque showing a portrait of a bearded gentleman. Mounted onto a turned cowrie pine back, it is typical of the Victorian plaques of notable people, made in large numbers to adorn public buildings like halls and libraries. This example is identified around the edge as ‘SIR Henry Parkes’.

Brass ‘Dickens’ plaque

HOWEVER…. it’s actually a terrific example of Aussie ingenuity.
You see, this is not intended as a portrait of Sir Henry Parkes – rather, it was cast in Britain in the 1860’s-70’s as the literary giant, Charles Dickens – who sported a similar magnificent beard and wild hair. Imported into Australia, and perhaps displayed on a library wall somewhere, when Sir Henry Parkes rose to fame in the latter 19th century, an enterprising scholar has added the inscription to make it the ‘Father of Federation’!

Henry Parkes, Fancy Goods & Toy Seller

Did you know the ‘Father of Federation’ spent a lot of his time retailing ‘fancy goods’ in Sydney? His adverts make fascinating reading, giving a glimpse into the parlours and nurseries of Sydney in the mid-19th century.

Here’s a sample – from the stock of Moorabool Antiques, 170 years later! His shop must have been a present-day Antique Collector’s Aladdin’s Cave….

Adverts for Parkes, 1840’s-50’s

Sir Henry Parkes would have felt quite at home at Moorabool Antiques…. he was a business man and craftsman, learning the trade of ivory-turning before migrating to Australia in 1839. He opened a shop in Hunter Street, Sydney, where he sold ivory products he made, as well as a broad range of imported decorative & useful items:

“Bohemian Glass, Vases of rich and various patterns, handsome China ornaments, PORCELAIN FIGURES From one inch stature, and comprising a hundred varieties. Also, FIGURES IN BISCUIT CHINA. Children’s China, dinner, dessert, tea, and coffee Services. CHINA PUNCH BOWLS, Vases, flower-pots, pomatum jars, match cups, mugs, cream ewers, plates, teapots, etc. ROSEWOOD DRESSING CASES, work-boxes, fancy baskets, FANCY SMALL WARES: TORTOlSESHELL, enammelled and fine leather ladies’ companions, alabaster and enamelled jewel boxes, tortoiseshell and sandlewood card caes, fine leather and enamelled netting boxes, alabaster and silk paper weights, enamelled letter cases and toilet stands, tortoiseshell and leather cigar cases…….”

Another advert from 1846 is fascinating, as it is solely advertising Pacific Tribal Artifacts:

“ISLAND CURIOSITIES – To Gentlemen proceeding to Europe – A variety of bows and arrows, clubs, spears, battle axes, canoe paddles, stone adzes and other South Sea Island weapons &ect.”

Sounds familiar…. you’ll find exactly the same at Moorabool Antiques today – but now they’re Antique!

The second ‘Parkes’ item is a very personal portrait miniature. Purchased in original frame and untitled, an investigation of the backing discovered two inscriptions: firstly, it is a hand-coloured photographic portrait, with a printed back stating it is ‘Photographed at Bachelder’s, 41 Collins Street E, Melbourne’.
Second, it has an inscription declaring it depicts ‘Lady Parkes as Young Girl’.

It suddenly becomes an important part of the story of Australia.

Portrait of Lady Parkes as a Young Girl
Portrait of ‘Lady Parkes as Young Girl’

The frame and mount are original, with the backing paper replaced with opening to show back of photo.

'Botterill Artist'.

The inscription on the back reads ‘PHOTOGRAPHED AT BATCHELDER’S 41 COLLINS ST E., MELBOURNE’, over which is inscribed in pencil ‘Botterill / Artist’.

The three ‘Lady Parkes’

Who was the subject?

Clarinda Parkes, 1880s

Lady Clarinda 1813-1888

There were three ‘Lady Parkes’, as Sir Henry always seems to have needed a companion – especially in his old age, where he had terrible luck with his partners.

His first wife, Lady Clarinda Parkes, was a Birmingham Dressmaker & Sunday-School teacher who married 21-year old Henry Parkes in Birmingham in 1836, when he was just ‘Mr Parkes’, son of a farmer and a novice businessman (which didn’t prosper for him). She came out to Australia with him, having their first child just 2 days before they landed, the first of 12. She had little public interaction, even when he became a notable in New South Wales government. She died in Sydney in 1888, aged 75 – and as this image we are considering is of a young ‘Mrs Parkes’, and is taken by a Melbourne photographer, it cannot be Clarinda who is depicted. She had 12 children, 6 of whom were still alive in 1888.

Eleanor Parkes, n.d.

Lady Eleanor 1857-1895

The second ‘Lady Parkes’ was Lady Eleanor Parkes, a Sydney resident who married Sir Henry a few months after his first wife had died, in 1889. She took a keen interest in Politics, particularly social matters such as the plight of the ‘waifs’, the homeless youth of the time. She travelled with her husband as his political position grew, and appears to have been actively interested and supportive of his policies. She died from cancer in 1895, and they had five children.

Lady Julia 1872-1919

The third ‘Lady Parkes’ was Lady Julia Parkes, an Irish migrant born in 1872, employed as Nanny & House-keeper in the Parkes household, where she nursed the weakening Lady Eleanor. She married the 79 year old Sir Henry in 1895 – just months after the death of Eleanor. This was the shortest marriage, as Sir Henry died just 6 months later, in April 1896.

Setting out the three ‘Lady Parkes’ as above makes him look awfully unlucky – and afraid of being lonely….
But unlike Henry VIII, he wasn’t desperately seeking an heir – he’d already fathered a dozen children. Rather, he sought someone of the opposite sex to make his home ‘homely’, a companion for his old age and protector of his children.

So which of the three is the portrait at Moorabool?

Clarinda, the first Mrs Parkes, who married him when he was just a lad of 21, was apparently the love-of-his-life for the next five decades – but it was only months after she died (after a long illness) that Eleanor was married to Henry. As a contemporary commentator said in the papers, ‘…the community was startled by a report which was published, that Sir HENRY PARKES had just been married”…. The shock wasn’t just that ‘….she is considerably younger than her husband’ – 32, when he was 74 – but also the fact they had been an item while his elderly wife was ailing, and in fact already had two children together! So the untold story was that Sir Henry Parkes had married his mistress after his wife had died. His political opponents and the papers made the most of the situation….

This relationship was contentious – his daughters were reported to have left the house in disgust, his servants all quit before he returned with his bride, and the doors of Parliament were closed to him due to his ‘indiscretion’.

Lady-Eleanor-Parkes aged 14, by John Botterill, 1870

It was justified in the press:

The facts of the matter are, we learn, that the aged statesman, feeling the loneliness of his life when State cares, gave him a brief respite, determined some short time ago—for he is not a man to dilly-dally in such an important matter—that his final days should be soothed and made happy by a second partner of his joys and sorrows. …..

However, the plan of being soothed by Eleanor came crashing down when she became ill and soon died, in 1895.

Sir Henry Parkes continued his career of scandal by marrying his housekeeper, Julia, only three months after Eleanor passed away! Julia was an Irish migrant, and had been employed as the housekeeper / nanny in the Parkes household. She nursed the ailing Lady Eleanor, and it is said that Eleanor herself requested that Julia marry the elderly Sir Henry Parkes. Although somewhat scandalous, this made sense in the Victorian world: there were five young children in the household, and Henry had died penniless and in debt. Julia fulfilled his wish – she dedicated the rest of her life to this step-family, never re-marrying and going to great lengths to provide them with a stable upbringing. She was a remarkable woman.

The Image: both a Photograph and a hand-painted Miniature.

Lady Parkes as a Young Girl
“Lady Eleanor Parkes as a Young Girl”

This very engaging image is actually an albumen silver carte-de-visite, the traditional way of providing images for family & friends; however, while most would be placed into specially made albums with spaces the exact size of the image, this example is intact in it’s original Victorian frame, and behind glass. This is essential, as the fine painted surface, applied over the photographic image, is very vulnerable. The effect is superb, to the degree that when this was sold as a portrait of an unknown girl, it was also described as a ‘portrait miniature’ rather than a hand-coloured photograph.

The work is produced in the Batchelder studio, 41 Collins Street East, Melbourne. This was established by the well-known American Batchelder brothers, who had come to the Australian goldfields directly from the Californian goldfields with the sole purpose of setting up a photographic business. While they had left by the stage this photo was taken, the studio name remained associated with the address for several decades.

41 Collins St E- premises of Batchelder & Co, upstairs.

Batchelder’s was regarded as a premium establishment, and many of the images of notable members of Melbourne society of the period were the product of the studio. In 1867, an advert reminds the public that Batchelder’s has now been going for 11 years – ie since 1856 – and has stored over 25,000 negatives in case you would like a re-print!

The image is signed in pencil to the back, ‘Botterill / Artist’. This is a very interesting detail: the ‘artist’ was John Botterill, described as miniaturist, portrait painter and professional photographer. He was active in Melbourne in the mid 1850’s joined the organising committee for the 1853 Victorian Fine Arts Society’s exhibition, to which he contributed eight works including a miniature self-portrait. In 1859, he is working as a ‘visiting master’ at  Woodford House, a school for Young Ladies in Park Street. In 1861, he joined Batchelder’s Photographic Portrait Rooms in Collins Street East, ‘engaged … to paint miniatures and portraits in oil, watercolour or mezzotint – these deserve what they are receiving, a wide reputation’. He also gained knowledge of photography from somewhere, so probably learnt ‘on the job’ in the busy studio. In 1866, he became one of the partners of the firm alongside Dunn & Wilson, and in 1867 the firm won a medal at the Intercolonial Exhibition for their tinted photographs. This was the work of Botterill, as the advertising from that year emphasises:

“…the PORTRAITS… painted by Mr J. Botterill, artist…. on view in the Fine Art Department , (at the) Exhibition, and to state that Mr Botterill is still at Batchelder and Co’s, 41 Collins St East..”

The use of ‘is still at‘ is curious, and perhaps reveals problems in the company. They parted ways at around this time. In his 1869 adverts, Botterill declares:
“J. BOTTERILL. Portrait
Painter and Photographer, REMOVED from
Batchelder’s to 19 Collins Street East”
He continues at this address for several years, before opening in Elizabeth Street for his final years. He died in 1881.

Lady Parkes as a Young Girl
“Lady Parkes as a Young Girl” – but which one?

Who is ‘Lady Parkes’?

The subject of this photo would be hard to place if it didn’t have the inscription, added to the backing of the original. Sir William Parkes had 3 wives, but we can identify who this one is by the fact the photography studio was in Melbourne. His first, Clarinda, was born in England in 1813 and far too old when they migrated to Sydney in 1839. The third, Julia was born in 1872 – probably after this photo was taken – so she’s not possible. The  second, Eleanor, was born in 1857, so is the right age for a Melbourne photograph in the late 1860’s, early 70’s.

John Botterill signature, Melbourne Artist c.1870
John Botterill’s signature, Portrait of Eleanor Dixon/Lady Parkes 1870

John Botterill signed this piece, on a Batchelder-branded photograph. Note there is no ‘partnership’ described, as was the case 1866-68. Having the partnership details removed would suggest it belongs to a transitional period – the photograph taken at 41 Collins Street East, with the painting done by Botterill a few doors down at his studio, 19 Collins Street East. There was still a strong connection, as after Botterill died in 1881, the Batchelder studio advertises that they have added the archive of Botterill’s negatives to their own extensive archive.

The final dating evidence is the arrival of Eleanor Dixon, the future Lady Parkes, in Melbourne as a migrant. She was from Wooler, Northumberland, one of five children, her father listed as a ‘Master Shoemaker’. He died in 1869, and several months later, Eleanor’s elder brother was married and promptly left for Australia. Eleanor and three siblings followed in 1870, accompanied by their mother.

Lady Eleanor Parkes as a girl, c.1870

1870 becomes the most probable date for the portrait. Eleanor would have been 12 or 13, an appropriate age for the girl in the photo, who still has her hair ‘out’, indicating she was not yet considered an adult. Around her neck is a black ribbon with large gold locket: this is typical Victorian mourning jewellery, and no doubt had a portrait of her late father in it.

Lady-Eleanor-Parkes aged 14, by John Botterill, 1870

We can imagine the scene: the newly arrived family caught up in the bustle & thrill of Marvellous Melbourne in the post-Gold rush boomtown, celebrating their new life with a very fine portrait. She engages the viewer with a very frank, inquisitive look. There’s a pink rose on her dress, and she is presented as a true ‘English Rose’, her hair spilling wildly out over her lace-trimmed dress, not yet constrained on top of the head in an adult style. For the young Eleanor, the future was as golden as the mounts of this image; anything was possible – and indeed, for a few years in the 1890’s she achieved something remarkable, marrying one of the most powerful men of the age, the ‘Father of Federation’.

On the theme of a ‘Golden Future’, there’s a wonderful image of Lady Eleanor Parkes on tour with Sir Henry: they were visiting the offices of Bushman’s Mine in around 1890; sitting to the right with her son is Eleanor, beside a very strong table on which sits a big lump of gold castings. The label at the front reveals its weight to be 1,347oz – and named “The Lady Parkes” in her honour!

Bushman’s Mine, Parkes: a 1,347oz ingot titled “The Lady Parkes”, with its namesake sitting to the side! Sir Henry is unmistakable on the other side with his wild white hair & beard.
1895 newsprint photo of Lady Eleanor Parkes
©Paul Rosenberg, Moorabool Antiques, Geelong.    Please contact if you wish to reproduce any part of this documentation.   Images from various online sources, mostly TROVE-accessed archives. 

Further Info on John Botterill & the Batchelder & Co Studio.

Left ImageRight Image
The 1866 partnership names appear on the lower image; the circa 1870 card back on the portrait of Lady Eleanor Parkes has had this removed, reflecting the updated state of the company.
1851 John Botterill miniature, English Market 2010’s
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The ‘Eden Holme’ clippership, last of her kind….

A fascinating story has emerged from an interesting naive ship painting at Moorabool Antiques, Geelong.

It’s a clippership, with the distinct black & white painted mock-gun hatches painted down the side, as was the style. There’s a clear inscription – in two places – identifying it as the ‘Eden Holme’. So what is the story of this interesting ship?

The Eden Holme was a 3-mast barque with iron plate hull, built in Sunderland in 1875. It has the distinction of being the last commercial cargo ship which had a regular schedule between Tasmania and Britain.

Eden Holme clippership 1875-1907
Eden Holme clippership 1875-1907

She was one of a small fleet run by the Hine Brothers of Liverpool/Maryport, and used to race the lucrative wool clip from Australia to the wooden mills of the Midlands. This ‘clipper ship race’ was a place were legends were made, and was driven by simple economics: the first to arrive with a cargo of in-demand wool would receive the best price.

Hine Brothers was founded in 1874, securing 16 ships in its first 5 years. There were 6 vessels with ‘Holm’ as their second name, and the company had the habit of buying new, or nearly new ships, rather than buying cheaper but less reliable ships that would cost more in maintenance in the long-run. This should have ensured their success, but the Hine Brothers had rather bad luck with their ships, losing 9 ships before they closed down in 1913. By 1900, the clipper ship routes had been replaced by more reliable screw-powered ships, and their vessels were used for more general trading. The Eden Holme was on a Tasmanian voyage, transporting a ‘general’ cargo from Hobart to Launceston when it ran out of luck.

Eden Holme clippership 1875-1907
Eden Holme clippership 1875-1907
Eden Holme clippership 1875-1907
Eden Holme clippership 1875-1907

After loading cargo in Hobart, the Eden Holme made its way up to the mouth of the Tamar River, up which lay its destination, Launceston. They arrived off Tamar Heads at about 11 pm on the 6th, and hove-to to await daylight and the arrival of the pilot, who came onboard the next morning at 8.10 am. The tug Wybia was expected to arrive at about 1 pm to tow the barque up the river, but the pilot made the decision to enter the heads, then changed his mind and headed out again with the intention of dropping anchor to await the tug. However, when just west of Hebe Reef the wind died away and Eden Holme began to drift eastwards with the current. Although all on board expected the vessel would drift well clear of the Hebe Reef, it struck a sunken outcrop on the northern end of the reef, then swung around and held fast.

A survey on the following day revealed that the vessel lay with its hull from fore to mizzen masts lying on boulders, both ends being unsupported, and had strained badly with the decks starting to open up.
Over the next few days, vessels were able to come alongside and a large amount of the cargo was recovered, much of it quite undamaged. There were sight-seeing cruises from Launceston to those who wanted to gape at the tragedy – complete with brass-band for entertainment. The wreck was sold at auction to J.G. Aikman of Melbourne for £265 on 16 January. Aikman also organised the recovery of large quantities of cargo and the ship’s fittings. There were regular auctions of salvage including one on 17 January that realised about £950 and another on 5 March that realised about £1,300. A diver was also brought to investigate the possibility of refloating Eden Holme, but on the 20th a gale developed during which the vessel broke in two, slipped off the reef and sank.

  • Eden Holme clippership 1875-1907
  • Eden Holme clippership 1875-1907

No other paintings of the Eden Holme apparent.

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A Krakatoa Curio

Victorian image of Krakatoa, c. 1883

This curious oil painting (on a sheet of milk-glass) has been sitting in the Moorabool ‘archives’ for a generation, a puzzle. It’s apparently night-time with a full moon, depicting shipping of the late 19th century, and a distinctive massive rocky protrusion. What on earth does this depict?

Is this Krakatoa?
Is this Krakatoa?

A little brain-storming and searching the internet comes to an interesting conclusion: this is Krakatoa, the mighty volcano of south-east Asia, shown in its pre-1883 eruption appearance.

Mid-19th century appearance of Krakatoa

Why has someone depicted Krakatoa?
It’s the infamous volcano in Indonesia that still grabs headlines, violently active and a very real threat.

Victorian image of Krakatoa, c. 1883
Possibly a sidewheel paddle steamer, not unusual in the region – it was the route from Singapore to Australia.

The shipping depicted in this image is the clue: it was inconveniently placed right in the centre of the Sunda Strait, the most direct route from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean.

A traveller has been passing by some time in the 1870’s or early 1880’s, and witnessed the awesome sight of the brooding volcano up-close. Was this at night, with dark shadows of ships on an indigo sea, a full moon peeping though the clouds? That’s the initial impression.

But another possibility is the dramatic result of the eruption: the sky was as dark as night for days. This would be a scene with the sun barely piercing the clouds of ash…. Of course the flaw with this idea is the bulk of the volcano is still there in the pre-eruption configuration. If this was the intention of the artist – to show the day turned to night by the eruption – then it could not have been an eyewitness impression, but rather the imagination of a Victorian amateur artist.

The air grew steadily darker and darker, and at 10:30 a.m. we were in total darkness, just the same as on a very dark night. 

Captain Lindeman, Batavian steamship “Gouverneur-General Loudon“, August 28th 1883

The intense blackness above and around us, broken only by the incessant glare of varied kinds of lightning and the continued explosive roars of Krakatoa, made our situation a truly awful one.

Captain W.J. Watson, Irish merchant ship “Charles Bal

Either way, it’s a fascinating depiction of the major event in the natural world for the Victorian era.

Victorian image of Krakatoa, c. 1883
“… just the same as on a very dark night”
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Rarity in Miniature: micro-carved Ivory Rococo scene, c.1795

Micro-carved ivory plaque,

Micro-carving describes the feat of creating miniature artworks, with the favourite material being ivory due to its compact nature which carves easily and displays well. Set against the burgundy silk, this example is a splendid example of the technique.

Stephany and Dresch attributed micro carved ivory plaque, circa 1795, Moorabool Antiques Geelong
Stephany and Dresch attributed micro carved ivory plaque, circa 1795, Moorabool Antiques Geelong

The technique is very reminiscent of the contrasting ceramic reliefs made famous by Wedgwood’s Jasperwares, and of the carved shell cameos with similar contrast. However, this ivory carving was magnitudes  harder to achieve; the carving is independent of any support until it is attached to the backing. This piece consists of small number of pieces mounted together, with a separate roundel border. In order to lighten the appearance of the urn and its plinth, they have cut out straight lines, with several together only measuring a millimetre – some features such as the stems of the roses in the border garland are the thickness of a hair!

Stephany and Dresch attributed micro carved ivory plaque, circa 1795, Moorabool Antiques Geelong
Stephany and Dresch (attributed) micro-carved ivory plaque, circa 1795.

Some of the best of the Georgian era were Continental emigrés, G Stephany and J Dresch. They established themselves in Bath and London, catering for the wealthy clients who were after miniature novelties for their snuffbox collections, or pieces of jewellery, or framed works suitable for a cabinet or wall.

Stephany and Dresch attributed micro carved ivory plaque, circa 1795, Moorabool Antiques Geelong
Stephany and Dresch attributed micro carved ivory plaque, circa 1795, Moorabool Antiques Geelong

They promoted themselves as  ‘…the most eminent sculptors in ivory in Europe who will execute any design for Rings, Bracelets, Lockets, or for Cabinet pieces’. Their work was ‘so fine that a glass is necessary to discover its beauties’. They exhibited a number of times at the Royal Academy, and were presented with a Royal Warrant by George III, titled ‘Sculptors in Miniature on Ivory to their Majesties’. The Royal Collection still has three pieces, portrait profiles of George III, Queen Charlotte, and the Princess Royal, Charlotte.

This superb micro-carved plaque is quite possibly by this premium English firm, or a Continental carver of similar talent.

An example in the Bath Museum:

'Grand Tour' fan, Views of Rome, Italian c.1785
‘Grand Tour’ fan, Views of Rome, Italian c.1785
micro carved ivory Grand Tour fan, Italian c.1785 at Moorabool Antiques, Geelong, Australia

A sensational example of micro-carved ivory can be seen on this Neapolitan ‘Grand Tour’ fan of the 1780’s. It depicts a French-style Rococo ‘folly’, and shows great skill in keeping the sticks strong enough to still stand up to usage.

See this item here >>

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Arnold Jarvis 1881-1959, Australian Artist

Arnold Jarvis (1891-1951) signatures
Arnold Jarvis (1881-1951) watercolour
Arnold Jarvis (1881-1951) detail of watercolour ‘Old Gums at Freshwater Creek’, c. 1920

Arnold Jarvis was a prolific artist, specialising in classic Australian vistas with ancient River Redgums, and once described as ‘The other Hans Heyson’. However, he doesn’t even come close to Heyson’s value today, and his story is somewhat neglected. He was born in South Australia, and literally ‘joined the circus’ in his teens, travelling as far as Perth to perform on stage. He had balance & tightrope acts – and a ‘speed painting’ show, where he would produce a painting from a blank canvas ready to hang on the wall in under 3 minutes! This was no doubt a brilliant way to refine his brushwork, as they say practice makes perfect, and he certainly perfected his impressions of ancient river redgums. By 1901, he was no longer a juggler, but a full-time artist.

Arnold Jarvis (1881-1951) watercolour
Arnold Jarvis (1881-1951) large watercolour, English Thatch Cottage & Steamship, c. 1910

This fascinating example of Arnold Jarvis’s work is perhaps unique, having a very classic ‘English Cottage’ combined with his more usual Australian scenery. The positioning of it – actually only half-on the paper to the right – perhaps indicates this is not a simple ‘pretty picture’. Similar artists painted works depicting English Cottages at the same time, and they were very popular in the exhibitions held in Australia in the later 19th & earlier 20th century. Catalogues list traditional painters of ‘English Cottages’ such as Miles Birket Forster hanging alongside the likes of Arnold Jarvis and the other classic Australian artists. The audience flocking to these shows was predominantly English born, or had parents who were, and therefore the nostalgia of these very English scenes was the driving force behind their popularity.

Arnold Jarvis, however, was one of the very Australian- oriented artists, and his immense volume of work is predominantly Australian gumtrees with sweeping vistas of semi-cultivated land. The other small group of Jarvis’s work are the coastal scenes, often with a ship on the horizon.

With this work, Jarvis has shown that yes, he can depict an English Cottage if needed – but while the classic English artists would make their cottage the front-central focus, he has pushed it to the far right. The central portion is a distant view that is familiar to anyone along Victoria’s ‘Surf Coast’, the place where Jarvis spent a lot of time. The open paddock with cows leading to tee-tree scrub and a hint of sand dunes, along with the reddish colour of the distant headland, are typical of the area. The scruffy trees that make up the far left are not at all English in nature, but typical of any nondescript Australian bush scene. The gums he loved to paint so much would never grow in this coastal position, but the foliage shown – along with the dead branches – is typical of something like the Blackwoods growing in the region.

The work is therefore a merging of the ‘Old Country’ with the ‘New’ – England and Australia. The steamship is the lifeline between the two – steaming along the distant horizon, heading to or from Australia.

Arnold Jarvis (1881-1951) watercolour
Arnold Jarvis (1881-1951) watercolour – Victorian Southern Coastal Scene
Arnold Jarvis (1881-1951) watercolour
Arnold Jarvis (1881-1959) watercolour
Very large Arnold Jarvis watercolour, “Old Australian Farm”, circa 1920. (white patches are reflections on glass)

Arnold Jarvis works at Moorabool Antiques, Geelong

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An interesting Ink Sketch of the Waterloo Shield

The Wellington Shield sketch c. 1835

A curious ink sketch of the fabulous ’Wellington Shield’ has a story to tell.
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) was the hero of the moment when he led the British & Allies to victory over the French at Waterloo in 1815. It had been 23 years of constant fighting with the neighbours – namely Napoleon’s France – and finally, there was the reality of a genuine peace. The National was truely grateful.

Duke of Wellington, early 19th Century portrait @ Moorabool Antiques, Australia
The Duke of Wellington, early 19th Century portrait @ Moorabool Antiques, Australia
The Silver-Gilt Wellington Shield, Designed by Thomas Stothard, made by Silversmiths Green, Ward & Green, and presented to Wellington in 1821 by the Merchants and Bankers of the City of London.

The Wellington Shield is a magnificent creation, paid for by The Merchants and Bankers of London as a token of thanks for keeping Britain free of Napoleon – and the essential trade networks flowing. Commissioned in 1817, it was presented in 1821. Now in pride of place amongst all Wellington’s treasures at his London home, Aspley House, No. 1 London Road (also a ‘Present’ from the grateful people!), it was lauded as the most spectacular silver charger ever made at the time. Inspired by the description of Achille’s shield in the Iliad, it shows Wellington being crowned by a winged Nike ‘Victory’ figure, surrounded by his loyal troops, and surrounded by ten detailed panels showing scenes from his career. Large and highly-detailed, it was examined, described, and replicated in publications across the British Empire. It was put on show every year at the annual ‘Waterloo Banquets’ held at Apsley House until Wellington’s death in 1852.

The shield can now be seen in Aspley House, part of the Wellington Museum, No1 London Road. Photo source: WikiCommons

We recently came across an interesting hand-drawn ink sketch of the Shield. Part of an anonymous sketchbook, the other side bears an image of two Indian soldiers, and a camel resting alongside a rifle. Other works in the album had European views, portraits of notables, and quite a few images of ports in Europe.
How do we interpret this all?

The reverse of the sketch bears these interesting studies.

Dating to the earlier 19th century, I believe it is the sketchbook of someone who really wanted to travel – but perhaps didn’t even set foot in the exotic locations depicted. It may well have been a young lady (there were some flower studies, always popular with young lady artists), who had the ‘wanderlust‘ to see the exotic sights that these images portray – but she could well have done it all during her idle time in the ‘drawing room’ of her family home, thanks to the array of newspapers and magazines that came readily available as the 19th century progressed.

This theory comes from the discovery of the source of this piece, and also from a clue that both images share: a very faint black smudging along the edges of all figures.

The Source

The Saturday Magazine March 1 1834- The Wellington Shield
The Saturday Magazine March 1 , 1834
Left – image from the ‘Saturday Magazine’, March 1st 1834
Right – the sketch being discussed, desaturated for comparison.

This is the fine woodblock engraving which illustrated an article on the shield in the ‘Saturday Magazine‘, published March 1st, 1834. This was a small, illustrated magazine that was sold for one penny, ‘Under direction of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge‘ – although it’s contents are of social / scientific / political nature, not religious.

The publisher was John Parker (1791-1870). His father was in the Royal Navy, and Parker served his apprenticeship at a London printer, which he ended up managing. From 1829, he became the director of the Cambridge University Press – and the appointed publisher for the Christian Knowledge Society, for which the magazine was published. While he printed bibles, apparently when Parker introduced ‘steam power’ for the presses, the ‘Christian Knowledge Society’ revisited the technology!

This illustration of the shield accompanied a long article waxing lyrical about the shield and how it came to be:

“…..the Duke of Wellington, England’s great General …. had finally planted the triumphant standard of our country on the soil of France itself. ……. honours were heaped on him from all sides, and men taxed their ingenuity to devise modes in which they might best mark their gratitude to him.
To this feeling, so universally displayed, is to be attributed the production of the Wellington Shield, one of the most magnificent works of art ever executed in the precious metals. “

The Wellington Shield - source 1834
The Wellington Shield – source in The Saturday Magazine, 1st March 1834

It is, however, reversed. How could this happen? The clue is the fuzzy, ‘bleeding’ nature of the principal outlines evident in the sketchbook, even on other pages.

Nike - The Wellington Shield - circa 1835
Note the ‘bleeding’ to the dark outlines

This is evidence of the technique used: a primitive transfer, where the artist has used an ink to carefully trace the main features in the print, then placed the blank paper onto the still-wet ink. After some pressure, probably in a book press, the image would be transferred – somewhat fuzzy, and needing the secondary touch-ups and washes of solid colour to create the image as presented. As part of the process, the image appears in reverse – and tends to bleed.

The Saturday Magazine March 1 1834- The Wellington Shield - circa 1835
Left: Thomas Stothard’s 1820 very accurate engraving of the shield.
Center: woodblock from the 1834 ‘Saturday Magazine’
Right: the same detail in the ink sketch, reversed.

The differences between these details reveal the ink sketch is not copied from Stothard’s version, but is identical to the ‘Saturday Magazine’ version. The give-away is the bow beneath the laurel wreath – while it is complete with two loops on Strothard’s depiction, the Magazine has unravelled the loop, leaving it out on one side – and the artist of the ink sketch has followed this mistake.

left: Magazine, 1834. right: Ink sketch

This is a fascinating depiction of a historical artefact, from the time when Antiquity was the inspiration for heroic representation. The artist has used an interesting technique to replicate their own version in reverse – and the result is not unlike an ‘Old Master’ pen & wash drawing from a much earlier period.

left: Magazine, 1834. right: Ink sketch

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