The Hermann & Inge Thumm Collection

Formerly at Chateau Yaldara, Barossa Valley

In April, Leonard Joel’s Decorative Arts department will have the pleasure of offering the Hermann and Inge Thumm Collection, bringing to a close a remarkable sixty-year chapter in Australian collecting. As with the wine they produced, the story of the Thumms and their collection, comprising traditional European porcelain and other objects, furniture, and art, represents a fine blend of the Old World and New World in post-war Australia.

A fine Sèvres porcelain inset and ormolu candelabra, early 19th century

Born in 1912 to a wine-making family within a German Lutheran community settled in Georgia, Hermann Thumm later escaped Soviet Russian occupation of Georgia and dispossession of the family estate and settled in Iran. Upon the combined British-Russian invasion of Iran early in the Second World, Hermann was arrested as an enemy alien and ultimately transferred to detention in internment camps in South Australia and Victoria (where he made sparkling wine in beer bottles!).

Upon his release in 1946 and sponsored by the pastor of the Langmeil Church, Hermann joined the long-settled Lutheran wine-making community at Tanunda in the Barossa Valley. After a year’s work as a contract wine-maker, he bought an old flax mill on the banks of the North Para River near Lyndoch and set about establishing the wine-making estate he named Chateau Yaldara, soon being joined in this by Inge, his pastor’s daughter, whom he married in 1949.

With their combined vision, backed by industriousness and Hermann’s intelligence in using his knowledge of developments in wine-making in Europe and Iran to introduce new wine styles and new ideas (including cellar-door sales) to the then-nascent Australian wine market, the Thumms were soon enjoying great success at Chateau Yaldara.

Wine-making was not the only aspect of their European heritage that Hermann and Inge wished to share in Australia. With the success of Chateau Yaldara, they were able to indulge their interest in the European decorative arts. Their vision was to create something of a private museum laid out in the estate’s grand main building – the chateau they built for the purpose – for the enjoyment of themselves and visitors.

A fine Sèvres porcelain inset and ormolu candelabra, early 19th century

Acquired over decades from the 1950s onwards, the largest part of their collection reflects the Thumms’ passion for porcelain in the classical eighteenth century German and French tradition. With pieces ranging in date from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, most being nineteenth century, the Thumm porcelain collection represents all the notable makers including Sévres, Meissen, Dresden, Royal Worcester, and Royal Vienna, and encompasses vases, urns, plates, figures and figure groups, all reflecting the richness of this tradition. Among the notable pieces of porcelain are a pair of Sévres plates depicting Napoleon receiving the keys to the city of Vienna and the Battle of Friedland, and an impressive pair of Sévres-style urns standing 114cm tall.

To display and accompany their porcelain in an appropriately gracious manner, Hermann and Inge Thumm added to their collection a range of display cabinets and other furniture including fine vitrines in Louis XV and XVI style, Boulle manner cabinets, impressive eighteenth and nineteenth marble-topped giltwood console tables, bijouterie tables, marble pedestals, and salon suites, all to be sold with their collection.

Also to be offered are the other objects which attractively rounded out the Thumm collection at Chateau Yaldara – glass, fine nineteenth clocks, sculpture, and art including an impressive marble Crouching Venus and a range of paintings by European, English, and Australian artists.

With the passing of Hermann and Inge Thumm some years ago, their son Dieter has decided that the best way to continue their legacy now is to allow their collection to pass to those who share their passionate interest in European decorative arts. Leonard Joel very much looks forward to its part in this, presenting this rare once-in-a-half-century opportunity in the same spirit that Hermann and Inge Thumm
so warmly enjoyed and shared their collection.

DAVID PARSONS / Head of Private Estates and Valuations
Decorative Arts Specialist

March 2023