• Jug commemorating John Batman

    Jug commemorating John Batman 1934

    PREMIER POTTERY, Preston, Melbourne (manufacturer); PAMELA ware (range)

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    Notes

    To this day, the identity of the founder of Melbourne remains in dispute. Both John Batman and John Fawkner sailed from Tasmania in 1835 to establish a settlement around Port Phillip Bay but it was Batman who proposed making a ‘treaty’ with the local inhabitants for the use of their land.

    This jug commemorating Batman was made by Premier Pottery, which was established in the late 1920s by David Dee at 52 Oakover Road, Preston. Dee ran the factory together with his son, Walter, and a partner, Reg Hawkins, who had trained as a decorator in one of the potteries in the south of England. The factory’s wares were popular, especially in the 1930s, filling the gap between studio pottery and commercial production. All were in fact handmade.

  • The La Trobe testimonial candelabrum centrepiece

    The La Trobe testimonial candelabrum centrepiece (1854-1855)

    STEPHEN SMITH & WILLIAM NICHOLSON, London (manufacturer)

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    Notes

    During the nineteenth century, prominent figures were regularly presented with testimonials in recognition of service. In Australia these invariably took the form of a flamboyant silver presentation object. The most lavish are elaborate decorative centrepieces.

    During the second half of the century, when Australian cities could support large numbers of silversmiths, centrepieces were nearly always made locally. A few, like this one, were produced in England for those who had worked in Australia. This candelabrum was commissioned for Charles Joseph La Trobe, the first Lieutenant Governor of the colony of Victoria.  The candelabrum, with its figures of an Aboriginal person, miner and shepherd, was an allegory of the colony of Victoria.

  • Melba

    Melba 1899

    Bertram MACKENNAL

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    Notes

    In Paris in 1886, Helen Porter Armstrong née Mitchell chose the stage name 'Madame Melba', after the city of her birth, for her international debut as an opera singer. Melba was proud of her origins and achievements and took many opportunities to repay the debt she felt she owed her country and home town.

    In 1898 she commissioned a bust of herself from her friend, sculptor Bertram Mackennal, for presentation to the National Gallery of Victoria. Melba and Mackennal were both Melbourne-born and almost exact contemporaries.

    Although the sculptural bust was a conventional form for portraits in the late nineteenth century, Mackennal imbued his portrait of Melba with extraordinary life and presence. The diva's handsome shoulders rise out of a busy swirl of draperies. The head, with its spiralling coil of hair, is set slightly to the side, imperiously surveying a presumed audience.


Melbourne

Melbourne’s people


  • John Batman

    The township of Melbourne was founded on the Birrung (Yarra River), which has been a meeting place for people of the Kulin nation for millennia.

    To this day, the identity of the founder of Melbourne remains in dispute. Both John Batman and John Fawkner sailed from Tasmania in 1835 to establish a settlement around Port Phillip Bay but it was Batman who proposed making a treaty with the local inhabitants for the use of their land. Supposedly, the Aboriginal people agreed to Batman’s ‘treaty’ and in exchange for goods and an annual rent offered up 243,000 hectares of their land.5

    As Jenny Lee writes in The Making of Modern Melbourne, ‘John Batman was a shadowy figure. He wrote little, died young, and never sat for a portrait. No reliable likeness of him survives.’ This didn’t stop artists in attempting to commemorate this important figure in Melbourne’s history.

    This jug commemorating Batman was made by Premier Pottery, which opened in the late 1920s in the Melbourne suburb of Preston. The factory’s wares were especially popular in the 1930s, filling the gap between studio pottery and commercial production. All were in fact handmade.

  • Charles La Trobe

    Charles La Trobe was appointed Superintendant of Port Phillip in 1839 and assumed the role of Lieutenant Governor of Victoria in 1851.

    Tim Flannery writes in The Birth of Melbourne that La Trobe’s ‘administrative abilities were severely tested by the gold rush, during which he lost control of the budget and much of the populace’. La Trobe tendered his resignation in 1852 but was not relieved of his duties until 1854.6

    In 1855, La Trobe was presented with this candelabrum centerpiece made by the London silversmiths Smith and Nicholson. In the nineteenth century it was common for prominent figures to be presented with ‘testimonials’ in recognition of their service and in Australia these invariably took the form of a flamboyant sliver presentation object. The candelabrum, with its figures of an Aboriginal person, miner and shepherd, was an allegory of the colony of Victoria.7

  • Dame Nellie Melba

    In Paris in 1886, Helen Porter Armstrong née Mitchell chose the stage name 'Madame Melba', after the city of her birth, for her international debut as an opera singer.

    In 1898, Melba commissioned a bust of herself from her friend, sculptor Bertram Mackennal, to present to the National Gallery of Victoria. Melba and Mackennal were both Melbourne-born and almost exact contemporaries. Both had gone to Europe in the 1880s to complete their training and seek international recognition.

    Although the sculptural bust was a conventional form for portraits in the late nineteenth century, Mackennal imbued his portrait of Melba with extraordinary life and presence.8

Endnotes


  • 5 Jenny Lee, The Making of Modern Melbourne, Arcade Publications, Melbourne, 2008.

  • 6 Tim Flannery, The birth of Melbourne, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2002.

    7 The Art Foundation of Victoria, The First Decade of Collecting, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1988.

  • 8 Terence Lane, Nineteenth-century Australian Art in the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2003.