The Rare and Unusual

At the Leonard Joel Sunday Fine Art Auction on March 25th 2012 institutional and private collectors were treated to a rare collection of historically important art and objects.

The early highlights of the auction were two works by John Glover of almost identical proportion and similarly framed that had been in one private collection for 30 years and had been originally acquired from Christies in London. The two works, lots 16 and 17, realised $91,200 (IBP) against total low estimates of $75,000 and were both secured by the same collector.

A mid 20th century work by Eric Wilson, lot 99, continued the theme of rarity when a very small, jewel-like work, by the artist of London realised $9,600 (IBP). Expectations were high when the middle of the auction was reached and three exceptionally rare transitional-period indigenous pieces were offered (lots 148-150). Two boomerangs, both elaborately incised with decoration, lettering and names enjoyed strong interest from institutions and finally sold for $21,600 (IBP) against a combined low estimate of $4,000. The third item from the collection was a very early transitional-period club that realised $3,120 (IBP).

7Leonard Joel is delighted to report that all three items were secured by a public institution. Later in the sale, scarcity of artist and rarity of subject matter probably accounted for the extraordinary result when a rather small work by the artist Herbert Rose (lot 157) sold for $10,200 (IBP) against a low estimate of $800. The oil titled Le Ruy, France provided a particularly unusual representation of a protruding hill top castle within a provincial village. The pleasant surprises and challenges associated with identifying early unsigned portraits came to the fore when lot 211, a pair of portraits, came up for auction. One was unframed and the other was housed in a mid 18th century frame that looked tantalislingly like one used by some of the great British painters.

The sitters (or subjects of the portraits) were identified as part of the English Kenrick family but there was little more that could be gleaned from the two paintings. In rather rough condition the paintings were conservatively estimated at $2,000 Р$3,000. After both local and international interest the “Kenricks” transacted for $18,000 (IBP) the pair and will now, no doubt, enter the slow process of restoration, further painstaking research and potentially some sort of attribution. Provenance and age were recurring themes and no more so than when the Captain Edgar Johnston Collection of Rare New Guinean Artefacts came up for auction. The collection comprised three pieces collected by Johnston in 1928 and comprised a dance ornament and two pigment bowls. The three pieces had been held by descendants of Johnston for almost 90 years and extremely conservative estimates were placed on the three items that are often notoriously hard to price before they reach public auction.

The results were truly breathtaking – lot 234 realised $7,800 (IBP) against a low estimate of $800, lot 235 sold for $10,200 against a low estimate of $1,000 and lot 236 (illustrated) sold for $23,400 against a low estimate of $2,000. In total, the three pieces realised $42,400 (IBP) or approximately 10 times low estimate. The final highlight of the auction was a rare work depicting a gorge in central Australia by Albert Namitjira. Subject matter, sometimes more than artist, is key with many of these Hermannsburg works and the deep gully and dramatic composition of this very considered work by the artist ensured strong interest. The work sold for $31,200 (IBP) which was more than triple its low estimate.

Of the almost 300 lots offered on Sunday the sale total came to just over $820,000 (IBP) with a sale rate of 72% by lot. Briar Williams and Nicole Salvo are now accepting entries for the June Sunday Fine Art  Auction and Sophie Ullin, Aboriginal and Tribal art specialist, is now seeking single items and important collections of tribal and aboriginal art.

If would like a confidential valuation for auction please contact


Nicole Salvo – Art Specialist
Tel: +61 (0)3 8825 5624
Email: Nicole Salvo

Image details
Lot No. 236
Rare Papua New Guinean Pigment Bowl
Estimate $2,000-$3,000
Hammer Price: $19,500
Price IBP: $23,400