2010 truly seems to be the year of Amazing Collections Broken Up and Auctioned Off. The most recent example of this bittersweet trend is the upcoming dispersal of "The Owsten Collection," a truly phenomenal collection of antiques, naturalia, and fine and decorative arts (see tiny sample above) amassed by Australian millionare Warren Anderson and his estranged wife Cheryl in the grand style of the19th Century gentleman collector. Over 1,00o objects drawn from this collection--which was amassed by the couple over a 30 year period--will be going to the auction block this Friday, June 25th at Bonham's Auction House in Sydney in what is being called "almost certainly the largest sale of fine art and antiquities in Australia."
From a glance, it seems that Anderson and his wife were voracious collectors of many things indeed, but especially 19th Century natural history and taxidermy, paintings, grand furniture, early 20th Century polychromatic sculpture, Aboriginal art and artifacts, and Japanese antiquities, with an eye towards the quirky and the curious, and with a strong William Randolf Heart-esque "more is more" ethos. Indeed, scrolling through page after page of lots, the mind reels as it tries to imagine a single home into which even a fraction of these objects could comfortably fit, and one finds oneself wishing one could have seen this magnificent and idiosyncratic collection in context, before it had been sent to the auction warehouse for dispersal.
The auction will feature 1,321 lots which include--among hundreds of other astounding objects!--a truly incredible Gothic revival bookcase, dozens of pieces of excellent or curious 19th Century taxidermy, a set of articulated skeletons, an early 20th Century singing taxidermied bird automata, three albums of Aboriginal portraits by Kerry and Co. circa 1895, "a curious Victorian monkey skeleton," half a dozen suits of Japanese black-lacquer armor from the 19th Century, "a good large early Victorian carved mahogany sarcophagus shaped cellarette," dozens of exotic fine carpets, scores of natural history illustrations, enough furniture to fill 8 mansions, and a set of 12 specimen cabinets used by Sir Joseph Banks. Many of these objects are pictured above; see end of this post for a full list of captions.
The auction will take place--if Anderson is unable to stop the sale (it has been reported that he is accusing Bonham's of undervaluing his collection and of being "unprofessional and incompetent" and is thus trying to halt the sale... more on that here) this Friday, June 25th, and Saturday, June 26th. Online bidding is available and the sale will begin at 10:30 AM. You can visit the Bonham's auction website to check out all the lots available in the auction--well worth your time, I promise!--or sign up to bid by clicking here. You can find out more about the auction--and the sordid back story, which includes alleged spousal abuse, corporate intrigue, and folly of all sorts--by clicking here. For more on amazing collections dispersed at auction in 2010, click here.
Thanks so much to my wonderful friend Lisa O'Sullivan for sending this along!
Images, top to bottom:
- Photo of antiquities specialist Tim Squires, from Bonhams, flown in from London for the auction, with lots that will be dispersed at auction, from Sydney Morning Herald; more here.
- Skeletal Display. A group of six old skeletal displays including coiled python, kangaroo , flamingo, hornbill, barn owl with mouse in it's beak under a dome , and rabbit in a mahogany case; From the Herald Sun slideshow.
- Five birds of paradise displays, Bonham's Auction House Website.
- Stuffed Penguins. Four penguin displays comprising two adult king penguins on plain wood bases, with old labels and provenance to 1901, a fairy penguin on icework base in a fine glass case, and aHumboldt penguin on snowy base under glass dome; From the Herald Sun slideshow.
- "The Barber's Shop;" an amusing Edwardian or late Victorian display depicting macaques barbering two domestic cats, whilst a third baboon reads the paper in the corner, within a fitted shop interior, in a gilt-lined architectural oak cabinet on stand; From the Herald Sun slideshow.
- Black Rhino Heads . 923 - An adult black rhinoceros trophy head by Rowland Ward . 924 - A black rhinoceros trophy head by Rowland Ward From the Herald Sun slideshow.
- A French mahogany and gilt metal mounted singing bird automata, 20th century, Bonham's Auction House Website.
- A mid Victorian walnut firescreen display of exotic birds by Ashmead & Co., Bonham's Auction House Website.
- A fine and imposing George IV double breakfront mahogany library bookcase in the Gothic style attributed to Gillows, Bonham's Auction House Website.
- A curious Victorian monkey skeleton, Bonham's Auction House Website.
- Aboriginal photographs by Kerry and Co. circa 1895, Bonham's Auction House Website.