Australian Historical Art Fund & Heritage Government Residences

The Duke of Gloucester's Desk, 1935

H. Goldman Limited, Melbourne
Blackwood and Specimen Wood
carvings attrib. to Robert Prenzel
Height 76cm Width 152cm Depth 89 cm

Silver plaque in central drawer inscribed:
“Their Royal Highnesses/The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester/from the/Commonwealth of Australia/with every good wish./6th Nov. 1935”
This desk was presented to the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester by the Right Honourable Earle Page, M.P. as a wedding gift on behalf of the Commonwealth Government of Australia following his marriage to Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott on November 6th 1935. It is documented in a contemporary newspaper article to have cost 'about £100'.  The intricately carved gum leaf feet and gum nut drawer handles are typical of Prussian born master carver Robert Prenzel (1866-1941). Prenzel's ledger lists work done for Goldman Ltd., between 1917-1925 with only a few mentions of work in the 1930s, as the records are incomplete the details on this desk can only be attributed to him.


Breakfront Wardrobe, 2008

Khai Liew (b 1952-) South Australia
Rose Mahogany and ceramic
Height 2400 mm, Width 800 mm, Depth 650 mm approx.

Commissioned for the principal bedroom in Admiralty House from the highly original and celebrated contemporary Australian cabinetmaker Khai Liew, this stylish wardrobe bears the Vice Regal cipher created in collaboration with Australian ceramicist Bruce Nuske.

Inspired by the facets of a jewel and intended to capture the changing light within the room, this extraordinary, contemporary wardrobe has Liew’s signature simple straight lines and sense of geometry with the sculptural qualities in the panelled design. His work follows diverse historical and cultural influences that include: Colonial Australian furniture; the ancient cultures of Egypt, Greece and China; the English Arts and Crafts Movement. Liew has merged all his influences – old and new, to create harmonious yet high quality functional pieces that resonate with the diverse background of today’s Australians.


Pair of Gothic Bookcases, c.1845

Joseph Sly (1802-1887)
Width: 122.5cm Height: 294.5cm Depth: 49cm

These Gothic style bookcases were produced by the workshop of Joseph Sly of Sydney and are considered to be his best works. The bookcases are also considered to be perhaps the finest examples of Australian colonial cabinet making.


Campaign Secretaire

Alexander William Norton (c.1827–1907)
Cedar and rose mahogany
Provenance Sir Henry Parkes
Height 113.5 x depth 52 x width 116cm

This campaign secretaire belonged to Sir Henry Parkes. Known as the Father of Federation, Parkes (1815-1896), dedicated himself to the lengthy campaign of the Federation of Australian States, which upon his death was taken up by Edmund Barton, and finally achieved within five further years.

Parkes was a key rival of the established conservative leadership. He was elected to the NSW Parliament in 1856 and was Premier five times between 1872 and 1891. He was a strong advocate for: the cessation of transportation; better education facilities, including those for the destitute; improving hospitals; a cohesive training of nurses. Deakin wrote, ‘…his personality was massive, durable and imposing…a large-brained self-educated Titan whose natural field was found in Parliament and whose resources of character and intellect enabled him in his later years to overshadow all his contemporaries.’  


Pair of Hall Chairs, c.1830

Cedar and paint
Width: 87cm Height: 39cm

This pair of Australian cedar Hall Chairs c.1830 are of exceptional quality of design and craftsmanship, with a rare painted and sculpted family coat of arms. Although Hall Chairs with a painted coat of arms are not uncommon in English 18th and 19th century furniture, they are extremely rare in Australian colonial furniture. Rendered with much refinement, this coat of arms applied to each chair back, is both painted and in sculptural relief. The coat of arms appears to be related to the Pole/Poole Family from the gilded motto Pollet Virtus (virtue excels) referred to in Fairbairn's, "Crests of Great Britain and Ireland".


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  1. Loo Table, c.1840
This selection represents a small sample of our collection. Our book detailing the collection is currently out of print. An updated edition is due for publication in 2015.
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