Posted on Leave a comment

A Chinese Musical Ensemble

Chinese Qing Dynasty Musical Instruments Painting

A remarkable folio of 200 year-old Chinese paintings recently came to Moorabool. They are large-scale examples of the ‘China Trade’ paintings, usually seen on a smaller scale on ‘Pith-paper’. These are on a thicker paper, using Mulberry bark as the basis, hence known as ‘Mulberry Paper’.
They were popular with the European traders who came to Canton to buy Tea, Silk, Porcelain, and exotic Eastern produce. Rare early examples can be the mid-18th century, but they became very popular by around 1800 as trade flourished.
Their subject matter reflects this intention as a ‘souvenir album’ – the distant ancestors of the postcard folio of the modern tourist.

‘The Story of Tea’, small folio, ex-Moorabool Antiques

One theme was ‘The Story of Tea’, showing the process it went through from the bush to the tea chest- appropriate considering the intended customer, visiting European merchants. Another rarer series follows the manufacture of Porcelain.

By far the most popular subjects were the everyday people that visitors would have seen on the streets – the umbrella mender, the fish sellers, the hat maker. Crime & punishment folios featured many macabre details not suitable for children… Others have children playing with toys, the dress of the wealthy & court, and the bright & lively processions for various holidays and celebrations.

Camellia Sensis, tea plant, Chinese Export pith painting
Camellia Sensis, tea plant, Chinese Export pith painting, Moorabool Antiques

A third group served as a ‘Visual Encyclopaedia’ – with subjects such as flower specimens, birds & fish specimens, ship types, and even ’Antiques’. This album we are showing here belongs to this group, a Musical Instrument ‘visual guide’.

Occasionally there are small-scale pith paintings of Chinese musicians playing the various instruments –
but it seems these depictions of instruments on this album are quite rare.
No comparable example could be found.

Chinese Pith Painting - Musical Procession
Chinese Pith Painting – a Musical Procession, c. 1830-50 Moorabool Antiques

They represent a large number of Chinese musical instruments, as were used in the early 19th century when they were painted. As a folio, they were a document of the types of Chinese traditional instruments, which brings to mind it’s purpose: to the Westerners who were often the clients for the China-Trade paintings, they were curios; to the Chinese, they would be a fine reference folio for the musically minded – a tutor to a prince, perhaps?

Chinese Qing Dynasty Musical Instruments Painting
Ready to play….. a finely detailed Chinese Qing Dynasty Musical Instrument Painting depicting a ‘Qin’ harp, circa 1800- 1830

A total of 20 instruments are depicted, some single, several double, and two triple.

These works are for sale individually, or talk to us if you are interested in the complete group, or part thereof. Individual prices – $750 each, all 11 total price $7,000

Other Chinese Paintings

Posted on Leave a comment

A Sensational Tudor Discovery

Christopher Columbus, Santa Maria c.1530

Remarkable objects turn up in Australia.

This early English needlework is an exceptional example.

At the Malvern Antique Fair in 1976, John & Lorraine Rosenberg of Moorabool Antiques purchased a framed needlework from another dealer. Placing it on their own stand for sale, it promptly sold to a local collector, who treasured it for the next 43 years.

She puzzled over its meaning and came to a remarkable conclusion: it depicts the events of the late 15th century, showing the fall of the Moors in Spain, and co-regents Isabella & Ferdinand II unifying the two kingdoms into the one Kingdom of ‘Spain’. It shows the three ships of Christopher Columbus….. and so much more, in a narrative of images, almost like a cartoon. Those familiar with the Bayeux Tapestry will understand the concept of telling a tale in thread. In 2019, it came back to Moorabool with the first elements deciphered above.

Since then, more and more of its remarkable tales have been untangled, and an exciting discovery can be revealed.
This is a 500 year old ‘comic book’ with immense significance for British, Spanish, and American history.

More to come shortly – in-depth analysis & expert opinion to follow.

Each detail in this textile is intentional, carefully sewn in incredible detail over a great length of time. It was a tale that the author had to tell… but what is the tale, and why?

Unravelling the story has been a fascinating journey; we invite you to join us as we explore these details in a series of interactive presentations.

Press Kits are also available.

Send us your details below to keep up-to-date.

Posted on Leave a comment

FreshDiscovery – 1751 Pastel by Perronneau, finest portraitist of his day.

Regarded by the leading expert Neil Jeffares as one of the two ‘best pastel portraitists’ of the 18th century, Jean-Baptiste Perronneau (1716-1783) is rarely seen outside collections. We were very excited to find a previously unrecorded portrait in Melbourne recently.

Close-up of Jeanne-Marie Mallès, aged 18.

It had an inscription on the back which gave us enough clues to find the original sitter, and we were delighted to discover the signature in the top right corner:

Pernooeau’s signature & the date 1751, signed in lead.

There was a modern label to the back covering, with a few details – probably copied from the previous covering. From this we can identify her: Jeanne-Marie Mallès, later Mme Tobie Clarke (1733–1821).

 Jeanne-Marie Mallès was from a seafaring family, her father being a Captain in the East Indies Company. However, he died in 1744; Jean-Marie was fatherless when this portrait was done in 1751, and it was 7 years later she was married to Toby Clarke (1733–1821), merchant of Nantes. They had several children, and a daughter, Marie, married François-Claude de Karuel de Merey, capitaine d’infanterie, who died in 1804 – the year Napoleon crowned himself Emperor – probably no coincidence, with the war with England and Spain raging.

Correspondence with Mr Jeffares has resulted in the authentication of the signature, making it a ‘signature piece’, and it is now added to the online ‘catalogue resonné’ of Perronneau, listing of every example authenticated, part of the amazing record freely accessible on Mr Jeffares site, .
You’ll find it as part of the following document:

An interesting note in Jeffares’ comments is that he sometimes dropped – or added – an ‘n’ to his name. Our example is the shortened version, Perroneau.
There are also several other examples of his sitters ‘as Dianna’ , obviously an interesting option to choose when having your portrait done. How fascinating, this beautiful young lady who had lost her father aged 11, had this portrait done showing her as the strong Goddess of the Hunt in 1751, and only married 7 years later. You can see her character in the twinkle of her eye..

Posted on Leave a comment

Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding, an ‘Armchair Travelling-Artist’

In today’s world-wide situation, ‘Armchair Travel’ is a necessity. The difficulty in heading off on a grand tour is huge, and the likelihood of being marooned somewhere due to closed borders is high. Stick to google street view exploration for the moment!

A recent discovery at Moorabool reveals the idea has been around a long time. Finely detailed and depicting an ancient ruin in a dramatic landscape, the work is signed Copley Fielding.

Copley Fielding (1787-1855) was a very talented artist of the Georgian period. Born in the Midlands in 1787, he was the son of a portrait painter (Nathan Theodore Fielding), who gave him the inspirational ‘Vandyke’ name as tribute to the famous artist. The inspiration worked, as he showed strong talent at an early age. In 1810, he entered the Royal Academy schools, being taught by John Varley and becoming a close friend of William Blake. The same year he was an associate exhibitor of the Royal Society of Watercolours (RWS), later serving as President. In 1824 he won a gold medal at the Paris Salon, alongside Constable. He exhibited constantly in the RWS exhibitions, and a smaller number of his oil paintings at the Royal Academy.

Copley Fielding 'Delphi Ruins'
Copley Fielding ‘Delphi Ruins’
Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding
National Portrait Gallery, London
-by Sir William Boxall 

Best known for his atmospheric ‘Romantic’ landscape views in the British Isles, and windswept seascapes, there are a small number of works in his repertoire depicting exotic overseas locations: Rome, Naples, and this example, the temples of Delphi in Greece. They are all imaginative – he never travelled out of Britain!

The scene in this work is the famous temple complex at Delphi, Greece. His direct inspiration would have been an artist’s sketch – it was a ‘top-10 destination’ for anyone with artistic ability on the ‘Grand Tour’, and in his RWS position he would have constantly come across people who had been there with their sketchbook. However, he has enhanced it to make it more impressive; the ruins are less ‘ruined’, the rounded form of the Tholos being remarkably intact, and the rectangular Temple of Apollo apparently still having its roof!

Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding
Copley Fielding’s ‘View of Delphi’ at Moorabool Antiques, Australia

The title on the old mount it is in is most confusing, and perhaps illustrates the nature of Copley Fielding’s inspiration: there is no ‘Temple of Juno’ at Delphi, although the mountainous scene is clearly meant to be Delphi. Several temples of Juno elsewhere in the Classical world survived and were sketched, but all are standard rectangular constructions. Clearly something got lost in translation between sketchbook and watercolour brush, by either the original artist, or the mount-maker of this work.

Copley Fielding Signature
Copley Fielding’s Signature

The rare Copley Fielding depictions of foreign lands include Rome, Naples, Greece (such as ours) and exotic Middle-Eastern landscapes. They are all ‘flights of imagination’: he was a true ‘Armchair Travelling-Artist’.
How interesting that this work depicts the Temples at Delphi, regarded as the very center of the world by the ancient Greeks, the start and finish of all journeys.

Copley Fielding Landscape
Copley Fielding’s background landscape.

His works are represented in a large number of major collections around the world, including the V&A and the Tate, London, The Met NY, The Art Gallery of NSW, and our very own National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.

This rare English Watercolour is now offered by Moorabool Antiques.

Posted on Leave a comment

‘Darwin’s’ Water Lily, by Wedgwood, 1806

Three early 19th century Wedgwood Pearlware pieces bearing the ‘Water Lily’ pattern, sometimes known as ‘Darwin’s Lily’.

A collection of a scarce Wedgwood pattern has recently come to Moorabool. What a fascinating tale this pattern has to tell…..

Commonly called ‘Darwin’s Water Lilly’ , or just ‘Darwin’, it is one of the few Wedgwood printed patterns of the first decade of the 19th century that was not Oriental in inspiration, and in fact an original creation.

Wedgwood design sources
The source prints for the Wedgwood pattern, from ‘Curtis’s Botanical Magazine’ and ‘The Botanist’s Repository’, dating to 1803-6

The inspiration for the design was pulled from several different engravings in Botanical magazines of 1803-6, and shows specimens of three types of the ‘Nymphaeaceae’ family, commonly called ‘water lily’
– left to right they are:
1 -‘nymphaea stellata’, or starry water lily,
2 -‘nelumbium speciosum’, or sacred Lotus of India,
3 -‘nymphaea lotus’, or Lotus of Egypt.

The original version designed in 1806 was printed in brown as a basis for enamel decoration; this is said to be the earliest instance of printing in brown that can be accurately dated.

The British Museum’s plate from the Darwin Family, delivered 1808.
The extra leaf in the 1815+ versions.

The difference between this earliest example and those slightly later is very subtle; a half-submerged leaf at 5 o’clock is the best indicator, not appearing in the 1807 version, but there by the circa 1815 examples.

Onglaze red was used from late 1809. In 1811 blue was introduced and become a favourite. Underglaze red appears in 1828. A later 19th century version was named ‘Old Water Lily’.

But why is it so often called the ‘Darwin’ pattern?
It turns out it’s a family affair. In the British Museum is a plate, very similar to our brown printed example, and another is in the Victoria & Albert, both from the same source: the family of Charles Darwin. In older literature, there is a story about them being from a service made by Josiah I Wedgwood for his friend Dr. Erasmus Darwin, on occasion of his marriage in 1781. However, this date is far too early for the pieces we are examining. The present conclusion is it was designed by John Wedgwood – the eldest son of Josiah Wedgwood, a noted horticulturist who was co-founder of the Royal Horticultural Society, Kew. 

Eramus Darwin, 1792-3, by Joseph Wright of Derby, now in the Derby Art Gallery.

It was ordered in 1807 by Dr. Robert Darwin, son of Erasmus  Darwin, and father of the famous Charles Darwin. He received it in 1808.

Robert Darwin, from an oil painting by James Pardon (1811-1829) (source:wikicommons)

The Darwin family and the Wedgwood family were intimately linked. Josiah Wedgwood and Erasmus Darwin were both part of the ‘Lunar Society’, the incredibly forward-thinking group of scientists and engineers that regularly met to discuss the exciting new world of science & technology – and botany – that was emerging in the late 18th/ early 19th century. A friendship was obviously formed, and several generations of inter-marriages followed. Erasmus’s son Robert married Josiah’s daughter Susannah, and their son, Charles Darwin, married his cousin – Emma Wedgwood, daughter of the second Josiah Wedgwood and his wife Elizabeth. She was therefore the daughter of his mother’s brother, and genetic problems are obvious in the generations that followed… Much has been written about the irony of Darwin’s fascination with aspects of genetics and evolution in nature – including how in-breeding caused a species to be fragile – and he himself wrote of his genetic concern for his own family….

Analysing the image source reveals the draftsman who created the ‘Water Lily’ design used multiple images, combined. Four source botanical images have been identified in the literature, one of which is a double – the following diagram shows which part comes from which publication. (Slide the divide for the arrows. )


The use of five different prints, from two of the botanical journals of the time, shows the designer was well aware of ‘botanical correctness’. They keep the leaf type of all three specimens separated and correct, and by combining the two prints of the Nymphaea lotus – no. 3 below – they show their scientific interest in the accurate description of species the botanists were striving for. The suggestion that it was John Wedgwood, co-founder of the Royal Horticultural Society (along with Sir Joseph Banks) makes perfect sense. 

John Wedgwood (1766-1844)

In the Wedgwood archives, a letter written to John’s brother Josiah Wedgwood II by the manager Thomas Byerley, states:

Onglaze red, c. 1815

‘Your brother is extremely active and intelligent, and is fast paving the way for a radical form, and will greatly benefit the concern ’.

Unfortunately, John retired from the firm in 1812, leaving just a handful of fascinating precise botanical statements as his ceramic legacy.

We’re pleased to have a selection from the earliest products of Wedgwood in this mesmerising pattern – a chamberpot and dish in the blue of the 1820’s, three red plates from around 1820, and an example of the earliest short-lived brown print.
The final piece is a 20th century Wedgwood re-creation, limited edition for the Wedgwood Collectors…… enjoy!

Moorabool’s Wedgwood ‘Water Lily’ offerings, midyear exhibition 2021. All 1815-25 except for the tankard, which is 20th century.

Posted on Leave a comment

Row your Boat – Local Regatta Trophies 1879-81

Yacht 1879 Colac Regatta Prize

A Row about Rowing!

This group of silverplate trophies are an interesting insight into the origin of Australian’s obsession with Sporting Events, which were used as a means of bringing the newly established colonial communities together and giving them a sense of ‘Pride of Place’ that is still very active today.

Australian Trophies

Moorabool recently discovered this trio of interesting local trophies, all won by a Mr R. D. Booth, Banks Club.

The first (on the right, above) is an elaborate fine-quality piece of English electroplate, engraved with fruiting vine & with handles dripping with grapes – a curious choice for the prize for the 1879 Colac Regatta. Most probably, it was simply a case of what was available in the English imports at the Melbourne jewler’s shops.

1879 was the first year that the event was held on Lake Colac, the largest inland lake in Australia. It required quite an effort to organize, with boats being transported overland from Ballarat, Geelong, and even Warrnambool to compete. The freshly laid Colac – Geelong railway connection allowed the logistics of transporting them such a long distance.

The Colac Regatta, 1879 – from the Australasian Sketcher, 1880

There had been an earlier ‘regatta’ on Lake Colac on March 29th, 1879; the newspaper reports on it wax lyrical, describing a crown of 2,500 people from Geelong, Ballarat, Melbourne, and everywhere in-between all having a jolly good time: the Colac Herald reports on April 1st 1879 the “flags of all nations were blowing”, and the sight of all the boats & flags “…brought to the recollection of many the youthful remembrances of bygone years.” – in other words, the gathering was a time of bonding by the settlers over memories of the ‘Old Country’, a nostalgic celebration of what was commonplace in Europe, but a first on this far-away picturesque Australian lake in the Western District of Victoria.

“Old and Infancy; the youth and beauty of Colac and district were there, all eager to witness the interesting excitement of aquatic contests”….

Colac Regatta 1879
A Colac Regatta of the 1880’s

“One or two slight mishaps occurred during the day which tended to amuse those present more than mar the proceedings, and were caused by the capsising (sic) of three boats…. “
One of these was the Maiden Sculling Race: ” only two started. At the start both men pulled away together, but the ripple of the water was too strong for the frail craft pulled by Parkinson, and the result was that he came to grief by the boat swamping when about half the distance had been pulled….. (he) swam to one of the posts and clung there until he was rescued by one of the boats of the Colac club.”

Yacht 1879 Colac Regatta Prize
A Yacht on the 1881 Melbourne Regatta Prize

Fine entertainment indeed! And it was this ‘ripple of water’ caused by ‘a strong breeze blowing incessantly during the day (meant) the water was rather too much ruffled for the rowing contest….”

The success of this regatta showed the potential for a regular event to be held on the lake, and also the inappropriate nature of the windy season at the start of the year; and so the committee decided to schedule one for the same year. This second event has gone down in history as the official ‘First Regatta’, held on December 13th.

Booth's 1879 Colac Regatta Prize
Booth’s 1879 Colac Regatta Prize

This event built on the experience of the first, and was a major event for the town. The Most Hon. George Augustus Constantine Phipps, Marquess of Normanby, GCB GCMG PC, in his role as the Governor of Victoria attended until the 8-oared race, after which the crowd cheered him to his special train which was to take him ‘back to town’ (Melbourne).
The Australasian covered the spectacle on December 20th, 1879:
“That an inland town so far removed from at least two of the principal boating centers should have attracted such numerous entries … speaks volumes for the exertions of the committee to provide first-class sport on their beautiful lake.”
The boats were again brought by train:
“Several first-class yachts were brought down by rail from the golden metropolis at considerable trouble and expense, while two eights (from Melbourne and Geelong) … made the eights the feature of the day”.

Our cup was a prize for this 8-oared race, and was awarded to the Banks Club as 2nd prize, this cup going to R.D.Booth, the no. 6 in the boat.

The ‘Banks’ club is a famous Melbourne rowing club, established very early, in 1866 on the ‘banks’ of the Yarra River in Melbourne – from where it still operates, producing many champion rowers for the present Australian sporting world. It is the ‘Banks’ club not because of the location, but due to the Bankers who were the founders: only Bankers were welcome to join, and the fees per annum were rather high – £1/1/ to join, then £2/2/ per year – a substantial amount in today’s money. But with secure bank-jobs, and the captain a manager, money wasn’t really a concern – unlike the working class Footscray crew, as we will explore later on in this article.

Booth's 1879 Colac Regatta Prize
Booth’s 1879 Colac Regatta Prize

In 1879, Banks Club packed their 8-oared clinker outrigger boat onto a Colac-bound train, and took on the teams of the Corio Bay Club (Geelong), Civil Service Rowing Club (Melbourne), the Ballarat Rowing Club , and the Barwon Rowing Club (Geelong). The prize total for this 8-oared, “about 2 mile” race was £105 – with first price being a decent £80. However, as only 5 entries were received (they were hoping for 8) this was reduced to £60 for first, £20 second and £5 third.
The crew of 8 and their cox were all ‘weighed in’, with R. Booth being on oar no. 6, as recorded on our cup. They made their way out onto the lake towards a start position, all five crews trying to line up in a pesky breeze with limited success – and when the question came from the small steamer bearing the race official “….Are you all ready?”, several replied no – but the whistle was blown, and those not ready scrambled to catch up; Banks careered into Ballarat in the scramble, nearly fouling them, and the others gradually pulled away towards their goal. Like the Olympic commentators of today, the reporter described the flow of the teams as they pull up, then drop back…. “Ballarat seemed overmatched from the jump, and were in addition badly steered…. after the first half mile the Banks and Corio forged ahead gradually, Barwon having retired from the foremost position…”
Then it all came unstuck for Banks:

When about half the course had been traversed, No 7 of the Banks caught a crab, and this accident, together with the advantage already possessed by Corio, enabled the latter to secure a lead of about a length, which was maintained the remainder of the journey, and Corio were proclaimed the winners by about a length.”

More suitable prizes for the occasion are the other two cups. These are splendid English silver plate examples, the base with coiled rope, the support modelled as three oars lashed together with a ribbon. These are marked ‘Lee & Wigfull Sheffield’, a manufacturer who specialised in sporting trophies, but only formed in 1879: these were brand-new designs from a freshly-formed English company.
The cups are engraved with scrollwork framing panels to either side – one with a very nicely executed small sailboat. Once again, these were won by Booth as part of the eight oared race, and then the four oared – but this time on their home turf – in the Melbourne Regatta of 1881.

This event took place on the ‘Salt Water River’ – nowdays known as the Maribyrnong, flowing into the Yarra not far from its mouth. 7-8,000 spectators cheered them on, and The ‘Illustrated Australian News’ for 12th March 1881 carried the report along with an engraving of the winning moment for the Footscray crew, winning the Clarke Challenge Cup. This silver cup, valued at 100 guineas, was the most valuable race trophy in the world at the time, and is still held by the Footscray Club. It has two oarsmen perched on its shoulder, holding aloft their equipment on an angle – complimenting our trophies which would have sat alongside it, as prizes for the ‘Amateur’ races in 1881.

The Footscray crew dominated the race – as they had in their wins the previous 2 years – and this caused problems with the other teams, as these men were “…men who gained their living by manual labour”. This was seen as an unfair advantage, as the other teams didn’t, rather being ‘amateurs’ – ie most probably Clerks, or some other sort of desk-job. The issue raised was these ‘amateurs’ were unable to compete with “..those whose daily vocations are such that they may be said to be in training all year round.”! As a result, a definition of Amateur was arrived at, and applied to certain race classes,

1881 Melbourn Regatta - Banks Team wins

Our trophies relate to the footnote at the bottom of this article, “The Banks Club won the Junior Fours and Eights in excellent style,…”. And on our smaller example, the committee has chosen to make a point about the amateur vs workman debate by inscribing

Maiden Clinker –
Four Oared Race –
Bona Fide Amateurs …. Won by Banks Club

Robert D Booth was an interesting character who loved his rowing: he has been described as ‘one of the greatest oarsmen of his time’. He was a bank clerk with the Commercial Bank when he joined the Banks Club, during which time he won these three trophies. Soon after, he was a part of the Melbourne Club. He represented Victoria in the ‘Intercolonial’ events for may years, beginning with a win in 1878 against NSW . His list of placings is impressive, with barely a 2nd-place marring the list of first place prizes. In 1887, he was part of the crew who won the title for Victoria against NSW on Sydney harbour. An interview with the Sydney Morning Herald on May 30, 1887 gives us a fascinating insight into this true Australian sportsman:

Mr. Robert D Booth, stroke of the Victorian crew, is a clerk in the employ of the Union Mortgage and Agency Company, Victoria, and a broad-shouldered, sinewy young man, affording in his person a good argument that the pen is not necessarily incompatible with muscular development. Mr. Booth’s physiognomy is an infallible and open index to his temperament A subdued, unostentatious manner, it is impossible to dissociate from it determination and tenacity of purpose, resettled by the square-cut features and resolute chin. Mr Booth, interviewed by our representative, said that he all along expected a close race, and the opinion was not shaken by the brave appearance presented by the New South Wales crew on Saturday. As to the victory and details of the race, he so as reticent and becomingly modest, although Mr Booth allowed himself to say, in a moment of excusable enthusiasm,that he never doubted the result for a moment, in spite of the opinions expressed in the press…..

The interstate rivalry is extremely clear in the rest of the article, a classic press-bashing that would not be out of place on the back page of today’s average paper….. Sport has not changed a bit beneath the surface!

Melbourne Regatta 1881
Melbourne Regatta 1881

Seen as an ‘entertainment’, these nautical Regatta events – along with horse races, athletic meets, and cycling, were in fact an important part of forming a sense of unity – through competition – amongst what was a large and diverse group of new arrivals to the region. The sense of pride conveyed in the various paper’s reports at the time show a healthy competition between the various regional cities, and between the States of Australia that certainly still flourishes. These trophies, as reminders of the origins of today’s rivalries, are important historical memories.

Posted on Leave a comment

The Prince Rupert casket

The Prince Rupert Casket

A fascinating recent discovery was this stunning little casket, or tea caddy. It has a terrific tale to tell, and even has a link to a great name in English ceramics, John Dwight of Fulham.

Prince Rupert of the Rhine, by John Dwight of Fulham, c. 1678

Made from a golden toned oak, it has elaborate sterling silver mounts of 17th century design. Inside, it has been lined with a tin/lead foil, a method used in tea caddies to ensure fresh tea.

This is of course an anomaly; tea caddies do not appear like this in the 17th century. A casket for precious items or documents would be possible, but tea caddies were not yet invented in the 17th century: tea was stored in metal or glass. The ‘tea caddy’ this piece appears to be would be early 18th century at best, but it is also a bit too small compared to others.
The answer to this problem lies in the various documents that came with the box. The original hand-written note explains all:

So who was this Price Rupert of the Rhine? And what exactly was his ‘house’?

The mid 17th century was a time of great turmoil for England, and the English Civil War of 1642-51 involved the struggle for England between those supporting the Monarchy (the ‘Royalists’ or ‘Cavaliers’) and those against (the ‘Parliamentarians’ or ‘Roundheads’). Prince Rupert (1619-82) was a Royalist commander. In his day, and to those generations who remembered the Civil War afterwards, he became something of a celebrity, a dashing ‘Cavalier’.

As his name suggests, he was originally from present day Germany – where his father was Frederick V of the Palatine. His mother was Elizabeth, eldest child of James I – so his English connections were strong, where he had the title Duke of Cumberland. He had been a soldier from 14 in Europe, and when called on by the Royalists in England, rose to the occasion. He became a favorite of James I, rising to the most senior post of command.
In 1643, the Roundheads overran Liverpool, and based themselves in the castle. All across the town they dug a series of trenches three meters deep….. and waited. Prince Rupert arrived in early 1644, and promptly brought in his cannon: and so the bombardment began. (18 days later, and less 1500 casualties, he finally took town & castle back for the Royalists).
In order to coordinate the siege, he commandeered a house with a decent view over the town, on Everton Brow. It is this house that is described as the source of the wood for this box – a decent medieval merchant’s house rather than a ‘cottage’, having a stone two-story frontage with a large bay window – no doubt of great use as a viewpoint as Prince Rupert planned his attack.

An article in the Illustrated London News, 17 May 1845 illustrates the building, along with its history, noting it had just been demolished as ‘… the modern improvements in the locality …. rendered its removal a matter of necessity, not of taste’ .

This 1845 date of demolition is very interesting; at this time, ‘Antiquarian’ interest in things such as the Civil War and great people like Nelson and Prince Rupert led to a thriving trade in ‘relics’ made from parts of buildings – or in the case of Nelson, his flagship the ‘Victory’. These were often useful items, such as letter openers and snuff boxes. The tea caddy we are examining fits this scenario perfectly, and so we can attribute it to a very clever ‘curio’ creator of the early Victorian period, circa 1845. While the before mentioned relics were made in quantity, the bespoke nature of this piece – and the apparent re-use of original 17th century silver mounts – suggests this is a unique creation.

See this magnificent relic here >>

‘TeaCaddy – Wood from the beam in Prince Ruperts Cottage / …. mounted)

The other three documents that came with the casket add to the story; Alstons & Hallam goldsmiths & silversmiths, described it as ‘Antique’ and by John Wakelyn – no doubt going by the maker’s marks on the silver mounts, reading ‘IW’ – but this cannot be accurate, as John Wakelyn only registers a similar mark in the 1770’s.
This card was probably written close to the date on the other card, 1938 – when ‘Mother’, being Mrs W. G. Hamilton, of Highgate, London, gave it to her child – assumably a son – ‘with love from your father & mother, Christmas 1938’.
(‘Hamilton’ is of course an old local Western District surname, local to us in Geelong where this piece was found, and so a likely reason for this piece appearing in Australia).


What a fascinating character Prince Rupert was! The British Museum states that he was “….highly intellectual with artistic and scientific interests; played an important role in the development of mezzotint as well as experimenting with gunpowder, metallurgy, gunnery, glass manufacture etc.”

Bust of Prince Rupert
Bust of Prince Rupert, Stoneware, from the works of John Dwight of Fulham c.1678
© British Museum

He is a very familiar face for anyone who has studied the history of early English ceramics: he was a celebrity in the days of the fabulous John Dwight of Fulham and his sophisticated pottery works. He produced a massive almost life-size bust of the Prince in around 1680, in high-fired stoneware – an extraordinary feat that now resides in the British Museum.

Also the British Museum, there is a magnificent bracket clock that was apparently designed by him, and dozens of his engravings and lithographic prints. I’ve put a few in the gallery below. These are fascinating, showing his strong interest in the arts. A box such as this one is a fine tribute to him indeed!

Posted on Leave a comment

The Begining: a Saint Cloud salt, circa 1700

We are always fascinated by the origins of things…. when and where did it all begin?

In the porcelain world, it was of course China, around 1,000 years ago. This was so foreign and magical to the Europeans that pieces which made the perilous journey across the globe were only affordable by the most wealthy, being far more valuable than gold.

This all changed as the lure of such riches led to experimentation, and the first instance of a European porcelain body appears in the Medici courts in the 16th century, bankrolled by Francesco I; today, only 70 pieces have been identified, and the enterprise was a dead-end.

An example of Rouen Porcelain in the Sevres Museum.

The next successful production appears in France. In Rouen, a pottery industry had for many years been producing Faience – earthenware pieces with a white tin-glaze, as an imitation of a white porcelain body. They developed a distinct design, known as a ‘Lambrequin’ – a border with repetitive symmetrical floral elements, borrowed from Baroque designs often seen in embroideries, metalworks, and related artistic products. In 1673, a privilege to make porcelain was granted to Louis Poterat, and he seems to have experimented without a viable production of commercial scale resulting – only a possible dozen Rouen porcelain pieces have ever been identified. A 1702 comment in the petition from the next factory mentioned described the Rouen effort at porcelain manufacturing as this:

“…..(they) did nothing more than approach the secret, and never brought it to the perfection these petitioners have acquired”.

-1703 Saint Cloud Royal Petition
A French Faience (tin-glazed earthenware) charger from the late 17th century, showing the distinct ‘Lambrequin’ borders seen on Saint Cloud porcelain products.
The designs are ‘le style de Berain’, taken from the 17th century designs of Berain, who was influenced by earlier Baroque designs which had borrowed heavily from Roman wall paintings!
This example in the Rosenberg Collection, Geelong, is probably Moustiers (Clerissy workshop), but is typical of the type made at Rouen during the period discussed.

The first commercially successful porcelain manufacturer is the factory at Saint Cloud.
This manufactury, like Rouen, began as a faience producer. A 1664 ‘Royal Privilege’ was given to a Parisian merchant named Claude Révérend, ‘ produce faience and to imitate porcelain in the manner of the Indies (China) ‘ As a merchant, he was importing faience from Holland, and would have been very familiar with the superior Chinese porcelains.
He selected a manufacturing base, and in 1666 set out to make faience products – in the manner of Rouen – on the outskirts of Paris, at Saint-Cloud. Within a few months, Claude Révérend had passed ownership to his brother, Francois Révérend. He had actually lived for many years in Rouen, and it is no surprise that these first products of Saint Cloud faience are very close to Rouen products.

Three examples of Saint-Cloud porcelain currently in stock at Moorabool – links below.

An artist employed at this time to paint the tin-glazed faience wares named Pierre Chicaneau is the important character in the development of the first commercial porcelain production in Europe. He is possibly from Rouen, and George Savage speculated in his 1960 “Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century French Porcelain” that he may have been exposed to the porcelain experiments while there.
He begins at Saint Cloud in the 1660’s, and in 1674 he was made the firm’s director. He died in 1677, and it is the documents provided by his widow’s petition to the King for a Royal Privilege to make porcelain that gives us the full story of what was happening in Saint Cloud through the late 1660’s and early 1670’s; active pursuit of the secret of making porcelain.
His widow wrote in the 1700 petition

“Pierre Chicaneau, having applied himself for many years to the making of faience and having arrived at a very high level of perfection in this work, wanted to push his knowledge still further and find the secret of making true porcelain; for this purpose he undertook several experiments with different materials and tried different finishing techniques, which resulted in works that were almost as perfect as the porcelain of China and the Indes”

-1700 Saint Cloud Royal petition by the Chicaneau family

They go on to state the first success – a repeatable, commercial prospect that allowed manufacturing of the product – was achieved by the firm around 1693.
Dr Martin Lister, physician to Queen Anne in England and prolific writer, visited the works in 1698, writing;

“I saw the potterie of St Clou with which I was marvellously well pleased, for I confess I could not distinguish betwixt the pots made there and the finest China ware I ever saw. It will, I know, be easily granted me that the painting may be better designed and finished because our men are far better masters of that art than the Chineses; but the glazing came not the least behind theirs, not for whiteness, nor the smoothness for running without bubbles. Again, the inward substance and matter of the pots was, to me, the very same, hard and firm as marble, and the self same grain on this side vitrification. Farther, the transparency of the pots the very same.”

[yith_wc_productslider id=”80404″]

Examples of Saint Cloud in Moorabool’s current stock – click for more

Moorabool is pleased to offer a piece of this earliest commercial production from what can be seen as the first European Porcelain Manufacturer*.
Our piece was a necessity on the elegant tables of the time, where salt was an important – and expensive – commodity that enhanced the dining experience. It was also a status symbol, as while the Crown imposed a tax on salt (la gabelle), exemption was made for the privileged Nobles and Clergy.

Several of these open salts would have been scattered down the table amongst diners. There are metal examples of the same form, and clearly the porcelain copies them.

Moustiers Faience Lambrequin border
Moustiers Faience Lambrequin border from the dish illustrated previously.

The decoration is classic Saint-Cloud, with a repeating pattern of lambrequin motifs in underglaze blue. Such decoration appears on the full range of Saint-Cloud shapes, such as cups & saucers, cosmetic jars, and even eggcups. Comparing the patterns on ours with other examples is fascinating, as it appears the artist was not faithful to any specific design – there are endless slight variations regarding the location of the various leaves, flowerheads, and the symmetrical tendrils that define them.

[metaslider id="80388"]

The ‘Sun’ mark is the earliest Saint-Cloud mark, and refers to the most important patron in France – Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King’. The factory location at Saint-Cloud was chosen because of the King’s younger brother, Duc d’Orleans, had an estate there, and became a patron of the fledgling factory. Louis XIV died in 1715, and the mark would most probably not have been used after that date; the more usual ‘St C’ begins during the second decade of the 18th century, and is identifiable as being post- 1722 by the addition of a ‘T’ beneath, indicating the change of Director to Henri Trou in that year. They continued making similar porcelain wares throughout the 1730’s-40’s, and finally closed in 1766.

Saint Cloud Sun Mark circa 1700
Saint Cloud ‘Sun King’ mark on our salt, 1693-1722.
The standard Saint-Cloud mark, including the ‘T’ for Trou.
The second example (Rosenberg Collection, Geelong) has an extra ‘h’, a painter’s mark.
Not all Saint Cloud pieces are marked – and some have ‘painters marks’, usually an alphabet letter. This selection in Moorabool stock, or in the Rosenberg Collection.

Other examples can be seen various museum collections around the globe;
the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris has 5 examples, of which 2 have the ‘Sun’ mark and are dated 1697-1700, while the other three are unmarked and catalogued “Saint Cloud or Paris”, post-1700 (reflecting the other porcelain manufactories in Paris who copied Saint Cloud in the early 18th century). In 1997, the collection catalogue (Christine Lahaussois) suggests a date of 1697-1700. In 1999, the catalogue for a NY exhibition (“Discovering the Secrets of Soft-Paste Porcelain at The Saint-Cloud Manufactory”, editor Bertrand Rondot) illustrates three of the same examples as definite Saint-Cloud, and dates them all post-1700, with the closest to our example (including a Sun mark) being 1700-1715.

An example with the same ‘Sun’ mark, similar decoration, can be seen in the British Museum, dated 1700-1710

An example in the Victoria & Albert, London, is very similar, with the ‘Sun’ mark, dated conservatively 1693-1724.
(It even has a chip to the rim – although unlike our example, un-restored!)

An example on display in the V&A, # C.474-1909

Sources & Further Reading:

George Savage “Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century French Porcelain” 1960

Bertrand Rondot (editor) “Discovering the Secrets of Soft-Paste Porcelain at The Saint-Cloud Manufactory” 1999

Aileen Dawson “French Porcelain -a catalogue of the British Museum Collection” 1994

Christine Lahaussois “Porcelaines de Saint-Cloud, La collection du Musee des Arts Décoratifs” 1997

*I should note; when I use the term ‘Porcelain’ in this article, it is best described as ‘Artificial Porcelain’, meaning it was not the same as the Chinese products, as it lacked one of the main ‘stiffening’ ingredients. This is commonly called ‘Soft-Paste’, and defined the earliest French and English products.
True Porcelain, in the Chinese manner, was produced by the Chinese from around the Song Dynasty (900 AD), and in Europe, the experiments at Dresden (and subsequent production at Meissen) were by chance identical in their basic ingredients, and this product is known as ‘Hard Paste’.

There is also a ‘Soft-Paste’ twist, with some fascinating experimental products appearing in England in the latter 17th century, possibly pre-dating the French efforts. John Dwight of Fulham was awarded a patent for porcelain in 1671, and may well have been successful – but not commercially!

Posted on Leave a comment

A Vienna ‘Harvester’ Re-united

Moorabool is often a place of meeting, both for people who enjoy Antiques – and for the Antiques themselves! We have occasionally been guilty of ‘match-making’ in the Antique world, discovering pieces that were quite literally made to be together…. but somehow became separated. It’s a thrill to re-unite pieces.

Ready for the harvest…..?

In today’s ‘Premium Fresh’ there is a rather sweet Vienna figure of a lady. Very early, she is circa 1755, and her costume is very distinct – very well dressed – and yet she carries a sickle and bundle of wheat. There’s more wheat behind her waiting to be cut; clearly she is a ‘Harvester’ off to sickle the wheat crop – but take a look at her shoes! How would they be practical in the fields…?

Vienna figure c.1755
Fresh to Moorabool’s stock
Vienna ‘Lady with Squirrel’ c.1755

While today we tend to place these lovely pieces in cabinets or a mantel shelf, in the 1750’s in Europe they were intended for the table. A scene would be set up along the length of a grand table, to entertain the guests with depictions of the gods, the Greek myths, a hunt, or in the case of a group of one group of interesting Vienna figures, “Pastoral Pursuits’.

The definitive book on these early figures helps us understand their purpose. ‘Ceremonies Feasts Costumes : Viennese Porcelain Figures during the reign of Maria Theresia’ is a splendid 2007 publication with large clear illustrations, detailing hundreds of Vienna figures from the 1740’s until the 1780’s. A private businessman, Du Paquier, had started the porcelain works in Vienna as early as 1719 ( making it the second true porcelain manufacturer in Europe, after Meissen), but by 1744 he was financially struggling, and the Viennese State purchased the works. This was of course ruled by Maria Theresia, the Empress of Austria, and she loved a good party… the porcelain works were an excellent source of the needed table wares, and this included table figures.

Vienna ‘Pastoral Pursuits’ figures, 1755-60

We find a series of well-dressed ladies & gents going about various occupations such as picking grapes, making wine, collecting milk…. and our lovely lady harvesting wheat. They’re an example of the idealisation and romantic notion that prevailed in the courts of 18th century Europe that the peasant lifestyle was an idyllic, carefree one. France of course excelled in this – think Mary Antionette and her role-playing as a milkmaid – and other courts tended to follow the fashions of France. Dinner parties could have an ‘Arcadian’ theme, meaning everyone would be dressed as a ‘commoner’ of some sort, but in silk and satin instead of the rough cotton the authentic garb would have been made of! These fancy-dress banquets had a curious way of dispersing the guests along the table – a lottery game would decide – giving the evening a sparkle of uncertainty in what was otherwise a very formalised environment.

A Vienna Porcelain ‘Shepherd’s House’, circa 1755

Some rare survivors are model buildings for a table setting – also recorded in parallel in Meissen productions – suggesting the appearance of the table, with this banquet’s theme being Wirtschaft, meaning ‘Economy’ or ‘Workplace’ . This is the perfect fit for our lovely lady with the sickle. She’s actually a Princess, pretending to be a Harvester for the evening…..!

While exploring this fascinating topic, I came across a colourful ‘Cavalier as reaper’ group illustrated in the before mentioned book. Our lovely lass isn’t illustrated, but a comparison with the ‘Cavalier’ figure leads us to an exciting conclusion: this is surely a long-lost partner figure.

Introducing…. Vienna ‘Cavalier & Companion as Reapers’ , circa 1755

Moorabool Antiques 2020

Together at last… virtually, thanks to Photoshop!

Reunion…. the figure on the left is Vienna, circa 1755-60, in stock at Moorabool.
To the right is a ‘Harvester’ circa 1755-60, illustrated in ‘Ceremonies Feasts Costumes : Viennese Porcelain Figures during the reign of Maria Theresia’ (Appendix #2) from the Umeleckoprumyslové Museum, Prague {86.269} .
The two share numerous similarities, including size, decorative ’embroidery’ moulding to the clothing – and even the same shoes! – the only difference being the Prague figure is painted, the Moorabool left white. Their complementing poses and similar detailing lead us to propose they were originally conceived as a pair.
Posted on Leave a comment

A Victorious Italian Madonna, dated 1619

Della Vittoria 1619

A fascinating fresh item at Moorabool is this tinglaze plaque – inscribed & dated ‘Della Vittoria / 1619’. It depicts a Madonna and Child, with her arm supporting a spear/staff from which flutters a banner with a cross.

A depiction of a crowned Madonna & Child, set in a wall in the village of Sommana, north of Naples.

These plaques are a common sight in the Mediterranean countries, in shrines on country roads and on building facades in the towns. Private houses have them inside their walls as a sort of ‘private chapel’.
Some where no doubt painted in oils, but the tinglaze pottery panels were the perfect medium for exterior display. They have lasted exposed to the elements for hundreds of years, the clay strong & well fired and the pigments unfading.

A typical Italian roadside shrine with a Madonna image.

Their purpose was a simple dedication of faith. Roadside shrines generally appear at a place of spiritual significance for the locals, and a colourful plaque would act as a vivid reminder of that significance to all who passed. Some are public declarations of perceived miracles, a thank-you for the protection from some tragedy.

In Deruta, the city of potters, the various churches and chapels are full of these plaques, commissioned and dedicated by individuals who were keen to record their own miracles and faith;  there’s a builder falling from a building, a horse tipping upside down and throwing his rider, and updated versions incorporating cars crashing! 

In Castelli, the Church of San Donato has a roof of dedication plaques from the early 17th century

A unique ceiling filled with tile panels can be seen in the Church of San Donato, Castelli, with a vast variety beginning with many dated examples in the early 17th century. It is in this context our example was made; being dated is a great start, but where was it made – and why?

This title is interesting: ‘Della Vittoria’ translates as ‘Our Lady of Victories’, a title given to the Madonna in the context of a military victory. This image of Mary militarised is quite a rarity – she’s usually shown very differently, a merciful mother rather than a militant one.

The inscription on our plaque; the lower left corner is a restoration, with just the edge of the D surviving; the space at far left may have contained an ‘M’ as an abbreviation of ‘Madonna’.
The famous ‘Madonna della Vittoria’ by Andrea Mantegna, 1495-6, originally in Mantua Italy, but ‘borrowed’ by Napoleon on his rampage in 1797 and never given back….. now in the Louvre, Paris.

Interestingly, ‘Madonna della Vittoria’ is the title of a fabulous work by Andrea Mantegna, now in the Louvre. This was commissioned by Francesco II Gonzaga, the ruler of the city of Mantua and the leader of the Italian League’s resistance to Charles VIII of France’s incursion into Italy in the late 16th century. He had fought to a stand-still victory at the battle of Fornovo in July 1495; one year later, the newly commissioned painting by the court artist Mantegna was carried into the newly built Santa Maria della Vittoria, commemorating Mary’s help in the historic victory. It now hangs in the Louvre, having been souvenired by Napoleon during his domination of Italy in the late 18th century!

Following this train of thought, the plaque in question was perhaps another celebration of a victory; however, while 1619 is within the timeframe of the ’30 years war’, (1618-48) the first decade was a series of conflicts in Northern Europe, not relating to Italy. The plaque is therefore best described as a dedication or shrine image, rather than an example commemorating an event – the date 1619 being the year of dedication.

The inspiration for the unusual image is one of two things; either a creation of an unknown artist on the pottery workshop, direct from his imagination – or perhaps it is a copy of an elegant work depicting a militaristic Madonna which has not survived the tides of war that have swept over Europe ever since this plaque’s creation in 1619; rather ironic!

See this interesting item here >>