National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Coles Myer Ltd, Governor, 1997
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of The Vizard Foundation
It is the form of an epergne. The epergne is mounted on a lobed ebonised stand, the front lobe of which is set with a shield flanked by emu and kangaroo supporters. The shield is engraved: Presented by / The Right Worshipful The Mayor of Sydney / C.J. ROBERTS ESQ. /To The / A.J.CLUB / 13th Dec. 1879 / Won By / MR GEORGE FAGAN'S / B.M.MABEL, 5yrs, 6st.5lbs. / Time 2. .398/10 sec. / Distance, one mile and a half. A ribbon beneath is engraved: ADVANCE AUSTRALIA. The circular base of the epergne is mounted on six feet of foliated scroll and cabochon design. On the base, encircled by a post and looped wire fence, a horse race is in progress, with five horses and riders racing around a raised pavilion full of spectators, a judge's booth and two marquees. Above, on a rocky platform, is a vine-entwined tree fern flanked by a sailor and an Aborigine. On the fronds of the tree fern is mounted a shallow glass bowl in the centre of which is a rocky outcrop on which a jockey stands, holding aloft, in his right hand, a glass trumpet-shaped vase in a silver holder. The base is punched above the front foot: W KERR
The Sydney silversmith William Kerr was responsible for some of the largest and most fantastic silver trophies made in colonial Australia. His Cricketing Trophy,c. 1876, features a cricket match with numerous players; his Intercolonial Bowling Trophy, 1882, shows a bowling match in progress under a giant fern tree; and, on a smaller scale, his Sydney Bicycle Club Trophy, 1885, is in the form of an emu-egg carriage, drawn by an emu and supported by a pair of cyclists on penny-farthing bicycles.
For The Mayor’s Cup, made to be presented at the December 1879 meeting of the Australian Jockey Club, Kerr devised a trophy in the form of a tree-fern epergne. Epergnes of this kind were made by a number of makers, but this one is unusually large and is enriched with allegorical figures and an extraordinary miniature racecourse. Five carousel-like horses and their riders are engaged in what seems to be an eternal circuit of the base of the epergne. The detail is remarkable and includes a marquee, a judge’s booth and a grandstand full of spectators. The Mayor’s Cup was exhibited on Kerr’s stand at the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition, where it attracted a great deal of attention.
William Kerr was born in Northern Ireland in 1839 and is thought to have migrated to Australia in the early 1860s. He took premises in George Street, Sydney, close by the Sydney Town Hall. His convenient location and the quality of his work brought him to the notice of the Mayor, CJ Roberts, JP, from whom Kerr received a number of substantial orders. Roberts’s successor, Mayor Harris, was also an important patron.