The Courts

Worlds fair Melbourne 1880-1881 British court as published in Melbourne International Exhibition 1880-81 Official Record, 1882.

The exhibition attracted enthusiastic audiences until its official close on 30 April 1881, one month longer than originally proposed. Just over 1,330,000 people attended the exhibition, over four times the population of Melbourne at the time.

The exhibition was open Monday through Saturday, from 10am until 6pm. Over 32,000 exhibits were displayed in national 'Courts' from every corner of the world including Great Britain, France, Germany, India, Japan, China, the United States of America, and all Australian colonies.

General admission cost 1s (shilling) for adults and 6d (pence) for children, and on days on which special events were held, such as a performance of the Austrian band, ticket prices were increased to 2s and 1s. Season tickets were also available at £3 3s for gentlemen and £2 2s for ladies.

Watercolour of Melbourne Royal Exhibition Building with fountain, flags and crowds arriving, 1880. Viewed from the South East, showing the Main Hall, Eastern Annexe and Temporary Central Pavilions from Nicholson Street. Architect - Reed & Barnes, Builder - David Mitchell.
Watercolour of Melbourne Royal Exhibition Building with fountain, flags and crowds arriving, 1880. Viewed from the South East, showing the Main Hall, Eastern Annexe and Temporary Central Pavilions from Nicholson Street.
Main avenue of the temporary annexe to the Royal Exhibition Building during the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. Caption reads: 5. Temporary Annexe.- Main Avenue
The main European nations and Australian colonies had frontages to the main avenue running through the temporary annexe, 1880.
Worlds Fair Melbourne 1880-1881-Main avenue looking north.
Promenading along the Avenue of Nations at the 1880 Exhibition was a popular Saturday afternoon pastime.

Eight years later an exhibition to celebrate 100 years of white settlement was held at the Carlton Gardens complex. Another grand opening ceremony was held, officiated by the Governor of Victoria, Lord Henry Loch.

Everything about the Centennial International Exhibition was big: from the 60-foot (18.2 metre) gilded obelisk at the southern entrance that represented the quantity of gold produced in Australia from 1851 to 1887 to the enclosed concert hall which seated 2,500 visitors; the fine art galleries, with more than 3300 works; the Grand Avenue of Nations, which was nearly a quarter of a mile (40 metres) long; and the temporary annexes, which were crammed with exhibits in an area covering 25 acres (10 hectares). More than 70,000 visitors attended the exhibition in its first week. By the exhibition's close on 31 January 1889, two-million people had visited the exhibition, more than double the population of Victoria.

At both exhibitions, nations were allocated national courts (or pavilions), the number of exhibitors determining the amount of space allocated. The courts were arranged according to a classification system first established at London's 1851 Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations: raw materials, the manufactures created from them and the arts that decorated the manufactures.

As exhibits were displayed by type, it was common for national displays to be spread across a number of pavilions. At the 1880 exhibition, for example, German exhibits were dispersed across six courts: two in the main building (one on the ground floor and one on the mezzanine), one on the main avenue of the temporary annexe, two in the machinery courts and one in the picture galleries.

Foreign and colonial exhibitors at Melbourne's two exhibitions went out of their way to court the consumer. Piling up their wares in elaborate displays, each pavilion enticed visitors to enter a ‘fantasy world of pleasure and comfort',1 a world that could be replicated at home through the purchase of exhibited goods. Given the immense quantities of fine and decorative art purchased at the exhibitions that filled every room at Emmarine, it is clear that John Twycross lived the dream.

1 Rosalind H Williams, Dream Worlds: Mass Consumption in Late Nineteenth-century France, University of California Press Berkeley, Ca., 1991, p. 12.

 

The Picture Galleries

Like many of his contemporaries, John would no doubt have returned time and again to the Picture Galleries on the mezzanine level of the main building. They were the most popular areas at both exhibitions attracting the greatest number of visitors (at least as measured by newspaper column inches).

International Exhibition, Melbourne, 1880. Interior view of the Exhibition Building showing the German Fine Arts Gallery in the southern balcony of the western nave in the Great Hall.
Photograph of the German Fine Arts Gallery at the Melbourne International Exhibition, 1880.

The lover of art on his first visit would, probably, not get further than the picture galleries. When he came again he would be tempted to return to them, and if he took a walk through them every day during the period for which the Exhibition was open he would not find the task grow monotonous.

Offering the first broad 'exposure to modern foreign art' the colony had seen, the picture galleries at the Melbourne International Exhibition gave the chance to compare the latest artistic offerings from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Victoria. For a collector like John Twycross, the Picture Galleries also offered the chance to add considerably to his already substantial collection.

Eight years later, John confirmed his status as a gentleman collector, exhibiting works in the Picture Galleries at the Centennial International Exhibition. He was in elevated company; of the over 500 art works in this Exhibition’s British Loan Collection, 238 had been lent by the Queen, the Prince of Wales and other noblemen on the Royal British Commission.

Once again the Picture Galleries at the 1888 Exhibition were hugely popular with visitors; the comfy sofas placed throughout the galleries an encouragement for contemplation of the works displayed, which thanks to the introduction of electric light could continue long into the night.

International Exhibition, Melbourne, 1880. Interior view of the Exhibition Building showing the German and British Courts with their exhibits of decorative arts and domestic ware in the Great Hall. The British fine art displays in the balcony area of the eastern nave are also visible.
View of the German and British Courts in the Great Hall from the eastern mezzanine, 1880.

The items

Oil painting on canvas titled 'Roses' by Geraldine Jacoba van de Sande Bakhuyzen, Dutch, circa 1880

HT 30580 – Painting - 'Roses', Geraldine Jacoba Van De Sande Bakhuyzen, Oil, Netherlands, Framed, circa 1880

Though the Fine Art Galleries of the Netherlands Court at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition were small, John Twycross purchased two Dutch works, one of them being this still life painting of roses by Geraldine van de Sande Bakhuyzen (1826-1895). Bakhuyzen, well-known for her still life paintings of flowers, came from a distinguished Dutch family of artists, related to another prominent artistic family, the Van Goghs.

A journalist writing for the Argus newspaper suggested that this work, then titled 'A Bouquet of Roses', demonstrated:

... that the countrymen of David de Heem, Rachel Ruysch, and Jan van Huysum, have neither lost their love for flowers, nor their skill in portraying them. Whether as regards form, colour, texture, arrangement, or the accidents of light and shade, this group of roses is admirably painted. Every leaf and petal seems to have been made a special study, but the delicacy of execution has not been carried to excess.

Despite the praise, the painting failed to sell during the period of the Exhibition. In May 1881, a few weeks after the Exhibition had closed, the painting was put to sale by Melbourne auctioneers Greig & Murray, along with the remaining items from the Netherlands Court. John Twycross purchased it, presumably at a much reduced price.

However, the painting was much admired by Twycross, who subsequently wrote to Bakhuyzen in the Netherlands and commissioned three more paintings from her. These arrived in Melbourne in early 1883. Only one painting by Bakhuyzen is listed in the auction sale of Twycross' art collection in 1889, and it is unlikely to have been 'Roses', which was evidently equally appreciated by Twycross' widow, Lizzie. It has been retained by four generations of the Twycross family, along with the other works by the artist, until it was gifted to Museum Victoria in 2012.

Tavern scene painting entitled 'A Man holding a Glass and an Old Woman lighting a Pipe', After David Teniers the Younger, circa 1850-1880

HT 22528 – Painting - Tavern Scene, 'A Man holding a Glass and an Old Woman lighting a Pipe', After David Teniers the Younger, Oil on Tin, Dutch, circa 1850-1880

Depictions of tavern scenes were a common subject of Dutch and Flemish genre painting. In Melbourne, in 1869, one journalist observed an example of a 'Dutch tavern scene' at James Hines' Art Gallery on Collins Street, which he confidently proposed may have been painted by either Cornelis Bega (c.1632-1664) or Cornelis Dusart (1660-1704).

In all likelihood, the painting was an example of the mid-nineteenth century mania for reproductions of the work of earlier artists, where copies of works by notable artists such as David Teniers, Bega or Dusart would be reproduced as affordable artwork, as prints or paintings on tin.

One of these paintings is a copy of an original work by the Flemish artist David Teniers the Younger's 'A Man holding a Glass and an Old Woman lighting a Pipe', painted about 1645 and now held in the collections of the National Gallery in London.

John Twycross could have acquired the two works at either exhibition. Both paintings were part of his collection at the time of his death in May 1889. The inventory of his estate compiled for probate records several works that might be identified as these panels including 'oil Dutch Boors by Dusart' and 'Pair of Dutch village Festivals attributed to D. Teniers'.

HT 22540 – Painting - Tavern Scene, Three Men, Oil on Tin, circa 1880

The works were included in the auction sale of Twycross' estate in October 1889 by Fraser & Co., where the two works attributed to Teniers were both given the title 'Dutch Merrymaking' - a seemingly fitting description of the subject of these two panel paintings.

Oil painting on canvas titled German Landscape (Cattle in a Meadow)' by Lina von Perbandt, German, 1880

HT 30652 – Painting - 'German Landscape', Lina von Perbandt, Oil, Germany, Framed,1880

Lina von Perbandt (1836-1884) exhibited just one work at the German Fine Art Court at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, this rural scene painted outside of Düsseldorf in the same year it was exhibited, under the title 'German Landscape'.

It was purchased from the Exhibition by John Twycross, who subsequently loaned it for inclusion in the 1885 Victorian Jubilee Exhibition. It was hung on the wall of the 'Turret Room', the two-storied tower at the Twycross' Caulfield mansion, Emmarine, at the time of John Twycross' death and subsequently listed for sale from his estate in October 1889 as 'Cattle in a Meadow'.

It failed to sell and has been retained by the Twycross family until it was gifted to Museum Victoria in 2012. Photographs of the interior of the Twycross' home in the mid-twentieth century show the painting hanging immediately to the left of the door of the Drawing Room.

Watercolour painting of Courtesan and her maid by G. Legros, probably French, late nineteenth century

Painting of two women gossiping in a gold mount and frame.
HT 22529 – Painting - G.Legros, Courtesan & Maid, Europe, circa 1880

Produced as a wall decoration rather than a serious piece of fine art, this small watercolour painting signed G. Legros depicts two women, possibly a courtesan and her female attendant.

While artists exhibiting in the Fine Art Courts are recorded by name in the official catalogue of the Exhibition, Legros' name is not listed, suggesting that the item was exhibited by a dealer or agent.

British Court

As was to be expected in a British colony, the British showing at both exhibitions was vast. Not only did the Great Britain court occupy the greatest floor space, its sections were more numerous than any other nation with nearly every branch of trade and manufacture represented. Britain's spatial dominance figuratively affirmed its position as the mother country.

Worlds fair Melbourne 1880-1881 British court as published in Melbourne International Exhibition 1880-81 Official Record, 1882.
Visitors to the Melbourne International Exhibition congregating under the dome of the Exhibition Building, with the British Court behind them.

At the Melbourne International Exhibition, British exhibits were spread across three courts: one in the main building, one in the temporary central annexe, and one in the permanent eastern machinery annexe. It was reported with pride in the newspapers and Official Record that British exhibitors had sent more goods of greater monetary value to Melbourne than they had forwarded to the Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition just four years earlier.

The bulk of British exhibits were located in the central annexe where the four principle industries of the nation—pottery, cutlery, stationery and textiles—lined the entrance to the court. Behind were further displays of wall paper, soft goods, leather goods, hardware, chemicals and carriages.

The British Court occupied one quarter of the total space available to exhibitors at the 1888 Exhibition; 535 firms sent exhibits with a monetary value that far surpassed that of any other country. British exhibits were once again spread across the complex with displays in the main building, temporary annexe, machinery court and gardens. Small and luxury items including porcelain and art pottery, watches and jewellery, precious stones, metal ware, precision instruments and cutlery, books and stationery, toiletries and perfumery, were exhibited in the nave of the main building. The bulk of Britain's industrial exhibits were located in the temporary annexe, in a court positioned directly opposite New South Wales on the Grand Avenue of Nations.

John indulged his passion for beautiful decorative arts, purchasing everyday domestic items and novelty pieces from the British courts. Among his purchases were a number of cut glass decanters and ewers, suitable for the elegant surrounds of the dining room at Emmarine; a gouache painting titled 'Encounter Between Cossacks and Bashi-Bazouks' by John Charlton RA and H.D. Watson, exhibited by the proprietors of The Graphic illustrated newspaper; tiles and vases from the British potteries; an acid-etched, clear glass epergne attributed to Thomas Webb & Sons, and a cast iron garden seat exhibited in 1888 by Coalbrookdale.

The items

Etched glass epergne, attributed to Thomas Webb & Sons, Stourbridge, England, late nineteenth century

HT 22561 – Epergne - Etched Glass, Thomas Webb & Sons, England, circa 1880

A form of table centrepiece, the term 'epergne' probably derives from the French épargne, meaning 'saving', in reference to the idea that dinner guests would be able to reach items off the epergne, rather than pass dishes around the table.

This wonderfully etched clear glass epergne, showing the influence of Classical Grecian decorative motifs, is attributed to the English glass firm of Thomas Webb & Sons of Stourbridge. Many similar examples of the company’s products were acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria at the conclusion of the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1881.

Photographs of the firm's display at the Exhibition show an impressive array of glass ware situated in British Court on the northern side of the eastern nave of the Exhibition Building’s Great Hall. The firm had already been recognised at previous international exhibitions, and in Melbourne were awarded no less than three First Order of Merit (gold medal), one of which was given by the Fine Art jury for the company's 'really artistic work in engraving and etching on glass'.

A report in the Illustrated Australia News noted the firm's ability to reproduce a wide range of decorative styles:

All periods and styles are reproduced at the works of Messrs. Webb, beginning with the earliest, Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Indian, Greek and Italian, Byzantine and Gothic, the Rennaissance and Rococo styles, are all illustrated in their productions.

Silver-plate mounted acid etched glass ewer, England, late nineteenth century

HT 22563 – Ewer - Etched Glass & silverplate, England, circa 1880

Like decanters, glass ewers were a common and popular means of presenting and serving wine at a dinner table during the nineteenth century.

This particular example illustrates the combination of two techniques frequently employed in decorative arts of the period; the acid etched glass body, with its unfurling, tendril-like vine design, and the richly engraved silver plate mounting that forms the spout and handle, extending down the ewer's neck before terminating in large, pierced loops, draped over the ewer's body.

Several exhibitors in the British Court at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition displayed examples of ornamental glass tableware, though among those that were noted was 'the very fine collection of glassware' of Thomas Webb and Sons from Stourbridge – 'cut, engraved and fancy'.

Cut clear glass wine decanter and silver collar, England, late nineteenth century

HT 22831 – Decanter & Collar - Cut Glass, Silver, England, circa 1880

Although decanters of various sorts had been in use since antiquity, by the late seventeenth century glass decanters began to replace wine bottles at dinner tables as a more elegant means of presenting wine. The clear glass allowed the colour and clarity of the wine to be fully appreciated, previously concealed by the dark coloured glass of wine bottles, or the stoneware jugs used at the table.

In the mid-1700s, tall, slender decanters with bulbous bodies began to appear, in favour of the earlier squats forms that had originally been based on the shape of wine bottles. By the nineteenth century, decanters became heavier and more robust as the glass was thickened to allow for glass cutting and engraved decoration to the surface, often in rich, deeply cut, geometric designs of diamonds.

Probably made in England towards the end of the nineteenth century, this decanter has a silver collar that reads 'Whisky', and carries the initials 'L & S', the trade mark of Birmingham silversmiths, Levi & Salaman. The hallmark suggests the collar was made in 1896, which is in keeping with the Twycross family's understanding that it was added to the decanter in the early twentieth century.

A ruby glass vase and a ruby 'cut to clear' wine goblet, probably English, late nineteenth century

HT 22600 – Wine Glass - Cut Ruby Glass, English, 1860-1890

In the first few decades of the nineteenth century most ruby glassware was produced in Bohemia (present-day Czech Republic), long-famed as the centre of quality European glassware.

By the mid-nineteenth century, Bohemia was no longer the sole source of ruby glassware, as glass manufacturers in Britain and America began to manufacture their own products.

In England, glass factories in Stourbridge were soon producing locally made, ruby glass. Items were rarely made of solid ruby glass however, 'partly on account of the cost, but chiefly because the colour is so powerful that an almost invisible film imparts a rich colour to the article upon which it is spread'.

Thomas Webb and Sons had a handsome display of glassware, including ruby glass, at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. So too did the other Stourbridge firm of Stuart and Sons, who were singled out eight years later at the 1888 Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition for their fine display of glassware.

'The shading of the colours in all cases is marvellous', the Argus newspaper observed 'considering the nature of the material in which such effects are obtained. Ruby glass is well represented, and there are some richly cut crystal lamps, of which Messrs. Stuart and Sons have made a specialty'.

HT 22602 – Vase - Ruby Glass, England, 1860-1890

Porcelain transfer-printed vase illustrating The Nuptials of Paris & Helen, designed by Samuel Alcock & Co. manufactured by the Hill Potteries Co. Burslem Stoke-on-Trent Staffordshire England 1861-1867

HT 22568 – Vase - 'The Nuptials of Paris & Helen', Hill Pottery Company, Burslem, England, 1861-1867.

Famed as the most beautiful woman of the Ancient World, the story of Helen and Paris is first recounted by Homer in his Iliad, and their illicit relationship proved to be the catalyst for the Trojan Wars.

Although various accounts dispute her mother, all are consistent in claiming Helen as the daughter of Zeus, 'Father of the Gods' in Ancient Greek mythology. Married to the King of Sparta, Menelaos, she was persuaded Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, to leave Menelaos for Paris, the son of King Priam of Troy. Her elopement with Paris, and subsequent marriage, enraged Menelaos who sought his brother Agamemnon's assistance to attack Troy and retrieve his wife. The subsequent invasion of Troy continued for the next ten years, and is one of the most important stories in Greek mythology and literature, introducing such famed heroes as Achilles and Hector.

Depictions of Classical figures and the adoption of related motifs and designs was a prominent theme during the Romantic Period that spanned much of the nineteenth century. Artists and designers looked to Ancient Greece and Rome, the Etruscans, and other ancient cultures as a source of inspiration for their re-imagined, neo-classically inspired works.

This vase showing 'The Nuptials of Paris & Helen' was one of a pair designed by Staffordshire ceramist Samuel Alcock during the early nineteenth century. They were produced in a range of colours, and the design was continued after Alcock's death by the Hill Pottery Company in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, which took over his factory for a brief period between 1861 and 1867.

Brown and white jasperware pitcher with Oriental figures, attributed to Dudson Potteries, Hanley, Staffordshire, late 1870s

HT 22835 – Pitcher - Brown Stoneware, Asian Figures, England, circa 1880

Jasperware, characterised by the smooth, matte base colour over which are set figures and border designs in neoclassical style, has become synonymous with one of the most well-known of British ceramicists, Josiah Wedgewood.

Introduced after much experimentation in the mid-1770s, Wedgewoods jasperware sought to replicate the appearance of natural stone jasper, from which the pottery takes its name. Instead of glazes, different metallic oxides are used to create a range of coloured grounds to an object. To this are added separately moulded decorations, often in white and in a raised relief. The effect gave the pottery the appearance of a classical Roman cameo carving, where figures or portrait profiles were applied in low relief against a background of a contrasting colour.

Such was the popularity of Wedgewoods jasperware that by the mid nineteenth century, several British pottery firms were producing their own, often strikingly-similar versions.

Dudson Potteries on Hope Street, Hanley, in Staffordshire, was one firm that began producing jasperware in the Wedgewood style. Like the genuine Wedgewood products, Dudsons jasperware was available in a range of colours, though unlike Wedgewood, prior to 1860 many of their products were left unsigned.

Painting titled ‘Encounter Between Cossacks and Bashi-Bazouks’ by John Charlton RA and JD Watson, England, circa 1880

HT 22531 – Painting - 'Encounter Between Cossacks and Bashi-Bazouks', John Charlton RA & JD Watson, England, circa 1880

In April 1876, an uprising in Bulgaria, then part of the Ottoman Empire, was brutally crushed by the Ottoman army, using mercenary, irregular soldiers called bashi-bazouks. The term, from the Turkish word basibozuk, means ‘leaderless’ or ‘disorderly’; both terms aptly applied to the ill-disciplined bashi-bazouk units.

The brutal nature of the bashi-bazouks’ attrocities in Bulgaria immediately brought international condemnation, most strongly from Russia. Although politically Britain was largely pro-Turkish, the reports being distributed and reprinted in British newspapers by noted American war correspondent Januarius MacGahan of the scenes of violence and destruction he observed only months after the revolt began to turn British opinion.

This gouache painting by Royal Academician artist John Charlton (1849-1917), renowned for his portrayals of battle scenes, and his former art tutor, J.D. Watson, for the weekly illustrated British newspaper, The Graphic, shows a scene from the Russo-Turkish War only a few years later, in 1877-78. The atrocities committed by the bashi-bazouk in this conflict finally persuaded the Ottoman Government to abandon their use of these irregular units. Though not quite as horrific, the Russian Cossacks equally had a reputation in battle. As one British newspaper wrote at the time: ‘When we remember that the Turkish Bashi-Bazouk is even worse than the Cossack, some of the unutterable horrors of the war can be imagined’.

With the conflict having been widely reported by the international press, including among Australian newspapers, stories and depictions of the loathed bashi-bazouk would have been familiar to many attendees of the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. ‘The Graphic’ had a substantial display within the British Court, one that ‘arrests the attention of all passers-by. The partitions are covered with original designs by a numerous staff of artists – pictures in ink or in chalk, illustrations of battles, or peaceful domestic scenes, of London shows, &c.’

Lord Byron, 'Lara. A tale'

HT 22503 – Book - 'Lara: A Tale by Lord Byron', The Art Union of London, England, 1879

Regarded as one of the great figures of English literature, Lord Byron (1788-1824) was the sixth Baron Byron of Rochdale, and a leading British poet of the Romantic period. His narrative poem, Lara, recounts the return to England of a noble, Count Lara, after years abroad traveling in the Orient, and the tragic, spiralling descent of his fortunes following his return.

Many critics regard Lara as the sequel to Byrons earlier, largely autobiographical work, The Corsair. Although published anonymously, Byrons own life shares several similarities with Laras main protagonist, for he had left England to escape the allegations of his numerous love affairs, including an incestuous relationship with his half sister. He served in the Greek War of Independence (1821-22), fighting against the Ottoman Empire, but contracted a fever which ultimately led to his death at the age of thirty-six.

The Art Union of London was established in 1836 to aid in extending the Love of the Arts of Design within the United Kingdom, and to give Encouragement to Artists, beyond that afforded by the patronage of individuals. Members of the Union would pay an annual subscription fee of one guinea, which entitled the subscriber the chance of winning prizes of prints of original paintings, etchings, and other graphic art. By the 1880s, more than 154,000 pounds had been spent by the Union on the production of prints and other works of art, with subscription rates in Australia being particularly strong in comparison other countries of the British Empire.

This edition of Byrons Lara published by the Art Union was almost certainly included in the extensive display of books and stationery in the British Court at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. Glass cases and shelves were filled with works by the countrys most renowned authors, while pens, envelopes and notepaper were arranged in decorative circles and diamonds across the various display tables.

Carved ivory and silver mounted parasol handle in the form of a squirrel, made by 'MJH', London, England, circa 1880

HT 22927 – Parasol Handle -Squirrel, Ivory & Silver, London, England, circa 1880

Writing in 1880, the Gardeners Chronicle noted that As in other things, fashion rules the kind of handles that our umbrellas and parasols should assume. Only a couple of years later, in a column on the various fashions of parasols, one Australian newspaper noted that:

Much time and money have been expended on handles. Some are made of papier maché, having the appearance of enamel, white, black, or red, on which gold and silver Japanese designs are wrought ... Wooden carved crutch handles are new, and borrow their ideas from Japan, as do cane handles covered with a fine basket work; while porcelain handles are so delicately painted they deserve a place in a cabinet.

Although of English manufacture, the influence and popularity of all things Japanese in the second half of the nineteenth century on Western decorative arts is readily present in this handle. The naturalistic rendering in carved ivory of a squirrel clinging to a tree stump is strongly reminiscent of Japanese carved ivory okimono, already popular to an export market, and actively collected by John Twycross. The parasol handle was used by Lizzie Twycross.

German Court

Germany's displays at Melbourne's two international exhibitions had the 'wow' factor. The German government invested in grand architectural statements, themed interior decoration, and monumental sculptures for both exhibitions. Germany also occupied the largest area after Victoria and Great Britain; its physical dominance clearly signalling to Britain that Germany was its "most dangerous competitor for colonial trade".1

Interior view of the German Piano display in the Royal Exhibition Building during the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. Caption reads: 59. German Piano Court.
German Court, Temporary Annexe, Exhibition Building, 1880-1881.

At the 1880 exhibition, the German industrial and manufacturing displays were spread across five courts: two in the main hall, one in the temporary annexes, and two in separate machinery annexes. Unlike a number of other courts, exhibits from each class were grouped together, rather than being scattered all over the building. This ensured visitors were able to "obtain a comprehensive insight into the merits and quality of the different class of exhibits with the least possible trouble to himself".2

The German court, published in the Illustrated Australian News, 15 September, 1888.
The German court, published in the Illustrated Australian News, 15 September, 1888.

Germany's positive experience in 1880 (combined with the resulting 12-fold increase in direct exports to Australia across the intervening eight years), saw it willingly accept the invitation to participate in the 1888 Centennial International Exhibition. It was in fact the first European nation to do so. Once again there was a unified design to the German display areas, which were again spread throughout the permanent and temporary buildings.

View of the German Imperial Tent on the balcony of the north transept of the Great Hall of the permanent Exhibition Building at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition held at the Exhibition Buildings, Carlton Gardens, between 1 October 1880 and 30 April 1881.
German Imperial Tent, North Transept, Great Hall, Exhibition Building, 1880-1881.

John Twycross purchased extraordinary quantities of porcelain from Dresden, almost all of which was sold at auction following his death in 1889. There are only two objects in the collection held by the museum that may have been exhibited in the German court: a series of stacking boxes and a porcelain vase.

1 Georg Seelhorst, Australien in seinen Ausstellungsjahren 1879?81. Nebst einem Anhange: Eine Reise in?s Innere von Sumatra, Gebrueder Reichel, Augsburg, 1882, p. 35.

2 Illustrated Australian News, 9 Oct. 1880, p. 190.

The items

Set of painted wooden stacking boxes and assorted cylinder boxes, European, late nineteenth century

I remember Dad showing this to us with great performance and also to our friends. I remember the bright colours and the anticipation of the 'titchy' experience at the end. Dad would say that bigger is not always the best and that smaller is often to be greatly valued. -- Christine Twycross, John Twycross' great granddaughter

While the inclusion of this set of thirteen, brightly-coloured stacking boxes, and similar cylindrical boxes, might at first appear an usual inclusion in John Twycross' collection, they perhaps reveal a more intimate association to the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition.

Twycross' son, John William, was eight-years-old at the time of the 1880 Exhibition, and had already accompanied his father the previous year to the1879 Sydney International Exhibition. Similar to the well-known Russian 'matroschka' dolls, where each figure can be taken apart to reveal a smaller one hidden inside, these stacking boxes would have been a source of great delight to the Twycross children and may have been either chosen with them in mind, or by them while visiting the Exhibition.

Each subsequent generation of Twycross children has been amused and entertained with these stacking boxes, and the emergence of the thirteenth, 'tichiest' box at the end.

HT 22596 – Vase - Porcelain, Hand Painted & Relief Moulded, Europe, circa 1880

Porcelain vase decorated with pink and white transfer print, relief moulding and gilt, probably German, late nineteenth century

This ornate porcelain vase, decorated in a style that evokes the Baroque 'Rococo' period of the late eighteenth century, was once part of a suite of related porcelain ware in John Twycross' collection.

Interior photos of the Twycross family home of Emmarine in Seymour Road, Elsternwick, in the 1950s show an identically decorated porcelain centrepiece bowl placed on the carved Indian rosewood, seated in the bay window of the drawing room.

Although the marks on the underside of this vase are illegible, it is certainly of central European origin. The body of the vase is covered in a pink transfer printed scene of a couple walking through a wooden landscape. A high-relief moulded female figure is left in white glaze, with gilt highlights, while the vase is entwined with gilt oak branches, leaves and acorns.

French Court

France had been quick to respond to both Sydney's and Melbourne's invitations to participate in their respective international exhibitions. Its displays at the Sydney International Exhibition in 1879 were reported to be ‘more attractive' than those forwarded to Philadelphia in 1876, while its presence at the Melbourne International Exhibition was larger and more elaborate still; 1250 French exhibitors sent merchandise to Melbourne with a total value of £93,000, as opposed to 700 exhibitors in Philadelphia and 300 in Sydney.

Interior view of a temporary annexe to the Royal Exhibition Building showing a display of French Bronzework during the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. Caption reads: French Bronzes.- Temporary Annexe
Photograph of French bronzes on display

France's fine art manufactures were displayed on the left-hand side of the main nave, adjacent to Italy and opposite Germany and Great Britain. The space allocated to France in the main building was equal to that occupied by Great Britain, thereby giving France a dominant position within the hierarchy of exhibiting nations. While the space allocated to France in the nave was equal to Britain, within the temporary and machinery annexes its presence was considerably smaller. Nonetheless its displays were of a very high quality.

Fashion and personal accoutrement, art works (including bronze statues), and clocks and watches were the highlights of the French court. Of the latter, over 50 firms sent examples of their manufacture to Melbourne, including Paul Brocot, a Parisian clock maker who manufactured simple and complicated clocks specifically for English and American markets. Not only did Brocot's beautifully crafted clocks find favour with the judges—he was awarded a first and third prize by the horology jury—they were also appreciated by John Twycross, who purchased an ormolu and enamel garniture comprising a mantle clock and two decorative vases which adorned the mantelpiece in the Turret Room (art wing) at Emmarine.

International Exhibition, Melbourne, 1880. Interior view of the Exhibition Building showing the French decorative arts and pianos in the Great Hall.
Piano recitals were held regularly in this part of the French Court, just inside the eastern entrance to the main building, 1880.

When the Centennial International Exhibition opened in 1888, planning for the 1889 Exposition Universelle was well underway. French manufacturers were so focused on their home exhibition that they did not send objects to Melbourne in the quantities anticipated. But there were some highlights. Alongside 'fine exhibits' of Limoges porcelain, handsome furniture, personal accoutrement (particularly millinery, boots and shoes), mechanical toys and a portable railway, were some novel and well-received exhibits like the model of the Eiffel Tower constructed from champagne bottles!

The items

Ormolu Japonisme garniture comprising a mantle clock and two candlesticks by Achille Brocot, France, late nineteenth century

In the late nineteenth century, France was international renowned for its production of clocks and watches. The Official Record of the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition notes that France exported between 25,000-30,000 clocks each year, with England being the industry’s largest market. The display by well-known clock maker Paul Brocot was one of fifty French firms representing the French clock making industry at the Exhibition, where it was noted he manufactured clocks especially for the English and American markets.

HT 22697 – Garniture - Ormolu, Japonisme, Achille Brocot, France circa 1880

This ormolu garniture manufactured by Brocot, in a decorative style showing Japanese influence, consists of a mantel clock and two dummy candlesticks, their vase-like ceramic bodies painted with images of a Japanese man and woman. 'Ormolu' is the French term for what is known in English as gilt-bronzing, where a fine layer of gold is applied through heat to a base metal of bronze, copper or brass.

Paul Brocot exhibited an 'excellent collection of clocks, both simple and complicated' in the French Court at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. ‘Among the latter were chime clocks, perpetual calender clocks, &c. The designs were most artistic, and workmanship of the first class. All these clocks had the Brocot Patent suspension of the pendulum', an adjustable pendulum spring which enabled time keeping to be regulated by altering the length of the pendulum suspension spring.

Exhibiting under Class 26, ‘Clocks and Watches’, Brocot was awarded a First Order of Merit (silver) medal for his 'Mantel, Carriage, Ornamental and Ordinary Clocks', and a Third Order of Merit (certificate) for a 'second exhibit of special complicated clocks, of very high class'. One particular feature was singled out by a journalist for the Argus newspaper, who wrote:

A remarkable feature about these complicated clocks is that the movements are so arranged as to make allowance for the additional day in February in leap years. In other words, the clocks, of their motion, mark the additional day which comes in every fourth year.

Austrian Court

At the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, 'the Austrian court, with its stately fern-trees and beautiful flowers, its draperies and flags, and the unique display of exquisite glassware along its frontage, was one of the most striking features of the exhibition.' Situated at the north-western corner of the main temporary annexe, the displays reflected a broad range of skilled craftsmanship and industrial production for which Austria was renown: porcelain from Vienna, paper manufacture, a 'splendid show' of electro-plating, jewellery, lacework, chemicals, and surgical equipment.

Interior view of a temporary annexe to the Royal Exhibition Building showing the Austrian display during the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. Caption reads: 23. Austrian Court.- Temporary Annexes.- Looking West
Photograph of the entrance to Austrian Court's display in the temporary annexe at the Melbourne International Exhibition, 1880.

But of all the exhibits, Austrian glassware was singled out for particular acclaim. 'Nothing could exceed the beauty of Bohemian glass', the Official Catalogue stated. The display of Count Harrach of Neuwelt (now Harrachov in the Czech Republic) 'whose life-passion has been to bring this exquisite industry to as great a perfection as possible', demanded attention. 'The frontage of Count Harrach's exhibit, at the entrance to the court, was chiefly devoted to table sets of glass, with different beaded or linear patterns, mirrors, and cut decanters and flower bowls. The ruby glass was enriched in some instances by fine enamellings in gold and white.' Works from the Harrach workshops were regarded as being 'held in the highest esteem all over Europe.'

Interior view of the Austrian display in the Royal Exhibition Building during the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. Caption reads: 24. Austrian Court.- Front View.- Main Avenue
Photograph of the Austrian Court's display in the Great Hall at the Melbourne International Exhibition, 1880.

Harrach's was the largest display of Bohemian glassware at the Melbourne International Exhibition, and represented his prominence in the industry in Europe as both the manufacturer of his own works, but also the supplier of glass blanks that were then used by a number of Bohemian glass designers at the end of the nineteenth century. Harrach's display earned him a First Order of Merit (Gold), alongside fellow Austrian firm J. Schrieber & Nephews from Vienna, who secured the same award in their respective category.

Interior view of the Great Hall of the Royal Exhibition Building showing the Austrian display in the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. Caption reads: 22. Austrian Court.- Great Hall
Photograph of the Austrian Court's display in the temporary annexe at the Melbourne International Exhibition, 1880.

The Austrian commission also constructed a kiosk in the gardens immediately north of their court. A popular favourite with Exhibition attendees, it was 'largely patronised by foreigners, who love to congregate at such places to quaff their lager, beer, etc.'. The kiosk's proprietor, Herr Flecker, sold the kiosk complete with fittings, chairs and counters, in May 1881. It was purchased by the Brighton Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club for use as a pavilion.

The items

HT 22562 – Ewer - Glass, Stork & Reeds, Austro-Hungary, circa 1880

Glass ewer with gilt and painted decoration, attributed to Harrach glassworks, Neuwelt, with decoration by Ludwig Moser, Bohemia, circa 1870-80

Although this beautifully wrought glass ewer is unsigned, it shares many of the decorative qualities of Bohemian glassware. The design applied to this ewer depicts a stork in a setting of reeds, leaves, and fine, thin branches, and is suggestive of the Bohemian glass painter and engraver, Ludwig Moser. Like many decorative artists in the late nineteenth century, Moser was strongly influenced by Japonisme, or decoration in the Japanese style.

In the same way that the Harrach Glassworks produced blank glass objects for decoration by other companies, including the Moser Glassworks, Moser's own designs were produced by his own workmen, as well as by other glass manufacturers, such as Harrach's.

Glass goblet with gilt and painted decoration, attributed to Harrach glassworks, Neuwelt, with decoration by J. & L. Lobmeyr, Vienna, circa 1870-80

Wine glass with elaborate decoration.
HT 22601 – Wine Glass - Enamelled Glass, J & L Lobmeyr, Bohemia, circa 1880

With its heavily decorated bowl and stem in gilt and enamel, this blown glass goblet demonstrates some of the many techniques and styles incorporated into European glassware in the late nineteenth century.

Attributed to the Harrach glassworks in Nový Svet (Neuwelt), northern Bohemia, who exhibited at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, the decoration is strongly suggestive of the established Austrian glass firm, J. & L. Lobmeyr, in Vienna.

Green glass goblet with gilt and painted decoration, attributed to Harrach glassworks, Neuwelt, Bohemia, circa 1870-80

HT 22609 – Wine Glass - Green Glass with Gilt Decoration, Bohemia, circa 1880

An emerald green wine goblet with a shouldered stem and fluted, circular foot. The rim is decorated with classical-style gilt fan motifs and white painted decoration

The rapid development in style and technique in glassware manufacture in the late nineteenth was such that items were exhibited for the first time at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition that had not been available to be included in the Sydney International Exhibition held only a year earlier. As the Argus newspaper wrote at the time of the Melbourne Exhibition, 'A whole chapter requires to be added already to the article "Glass-making" in the most recent English encyclopaedias'.

One particular example of glassware shown in Melbourne produced by the glass workshops of Count Harrach was 'a specimen of granulated-gold green glass which was not in the Sydney Exhibition, but is, so to speak, the invention of yesterday'.

Ruby glass epergne with gilt borders, probably Bohemian, late nineteenth century

HT 22574 – Epergne - Gilded Red Glass, European, circa 1880

A form of table centrepiece, the term 'epergne' probably derives from the French épargne, meaning 'saving', in reference to the idea that dinner guests would be able to reach items off the epergne, rather than pass dishes around the table.

This richly gilt decorated ruby glass epergne is possibly of Bohemian origins, and may have been exhibited at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition by the Harrach Glassworks.

Equally, however, the inclusion of Classical Grecian style decorative gilt borders shares similarities with another epergne acquired by John Twycross at the Exhibition, attributed to the English firm of Thomas Webb & Sons, and it may be that both epergne were acquired from the British Court.

HT 22564 – Decanter - Etched Glass, Grape Vine Pattern, Europe, circa 1880

Ruby cut-to-clear glass decanter with grape vine decoration, probably Bohemian, late nineteenth century

This tall, ruby cut-to-clear glass wine decanter was probably purchased by John Twycross at the Austrian Court at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, for in the late nineteenth century, Bohemian – then in Austria – was the primary European centre for ornamental glass production.

Twisting grape vine tendrils etched through the ruby glass are a playful suggestion of the intended contents of the decanter. Due to the costs involved in the production, rarely were entire items produced from ruby glass, but rather a veneer of the red glass wrapped over a clear glass base. One decorative approach was to cut back the ruby glass to reveal the clear, transparent glass beneath; a style known as 'cut-to-clear'.

This decanter used to sit on the sideboard in the Drawing Room of Emmarine, the Twycross family's Elsternwick home, in the 1950s.

Pair of ruby glass vases with gilt and painted decoration, attributed to Harrach glassworks, Neuwelt, Bohemia, circa 1870-80

HT 22599 – Vase - Ruby Glass with Enamelled Floral Panels, Bohemia, circa 1880

Standing just over sixteen centimetres tall, these small but beautifully decorated pair of red and white glass vases with fine gilt scrolling tendrils suggestive of Islamic designs, are attributed to the glassworks of Count Harrach, in Nový Svet (Neuwelt), Bohemia, near the border with Poland.

The design of decorative arts in the second half of the nineteenth was influenced by several styles, and this was particularly the case among glass and ceramic ware. Many Bohemian glassware designers incorporated elements of Islamic, Japan and Western styles together in their work, and these vases are a good example.

The delicate, entwined foliate tendrils in gilt against the red glass stand in contrast to the more typical European-styled depiction of roses and other flowers enamelled onto a white, circular panel on either side of the body of the vases.

Examples of similar glassware were noted among Harrach's exhibits at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. 'The specimens in ruby and in gold and white enamel on ruby ground are exceedingly charming. This rich and attractive tint is produced by a mixture of gold with the material used.'

Royal Vienna-style painted porcelain cabinet plates, probably after Wilhelm Menzler, Austria, 1870-1880s

Colourful wall plate with handpainted depiction of a lady in rich clothes.
HT 22586 – Cabinet Plate - German Lady, Blue & Gold Bonnet, Royal Vienna Style Porcelain, after Wilhelm Menzler, circa 1880

In the late nineteenth century, a fashion developed in Europe for porcelain plates decorated with portraits, often copies from well-known paintings.

Often described as 'Royal Vienna', the majority of these plates were in fact produced after the Royal Vienna Porcelain Factory - founded in 1718 by Dutchman Claudius Innocentius Du Paquier - had closed in 1865. Subsequently, numerous porcelain manufactures and decorators across Germany and Austria began producing these detailed portrait plates in the Royal Viennese style.

Although manufactured in the late nineteenth century, the women depicted on these plates are all wearing Germanic-style clothing from the sixteenth century. At least one of the plates is a copy of a portrait painting by the German artist Wilhelm Menzler (1846-1926), and several examples of similar Royal Vienna plates with Menzler's artwork are known.

HT 22587 – Cabinet Plate - German Lady, Blue Cap with Jewelled Net, Royal Vienna Style Porcelain, after Wilhelm Menzler, circa 1880

Menzler did not exhibit any paintings in Melbourne in 1880, although two of his works were exhibited the previous year at the 1878 Sydney International Exhibition; portraits of Philippine Welser (1527-1580) and Agnes Bernauer, the so-called 'Beauty of Augsburg' (1410-1435). It is possible that one of the subjects of the plates is a copy of Menzler's portrait of Welser.

Three Viennese companies exhibited decoratively painted porcelain ware at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition: Rädler and Pilz, Charles Falb and Josef Zasche. Both Falb and Zasche had their works listed in the catalogue of works of art, rather than just as pottery, indicating that the works were most probably decorative. Zasche in particular was noted for his display of porcelain and enamel paintings of portraits, dishes, vases and plates.

Italian Court

Italy was represented by two court spaces at the 1880 International Melbourne Exhibition. The first of these was located in the Royal Exhibition Building itself, in the eastern nave immediately to the left of the main entrance, along with the other major European powers Great Britain, Germany and France. A second space was allocated in the north-western end of the main temporary buildings.

Interior view of the Italian Display in the Royal Exhibition Building during the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. Caption reads: 36. Italian Court.- Front View.- Main Avenue
Photograph of the Italian Court at the Melbourne International Exhibition, 1880.

A sizeable portion of this area was devoted to Italian foods, wines and liqueurs. A Kiosk constructed from wine bottles and adorned with a statue of Bacchus was placed in the centre of the display. Rich interior furnishings commanded attention, as did ornately carved bookcases, mirrors, and alabaster sculptures. A particular novelty was an entire drawing-room suite made from highly polished bulls horns and hides, exhibited by Antonio Rossetti of Rome.

The Italian Court was noted for its strong representation of fine and decorative art. Bronze casts were praised as 'very choice and attractive', while the range of items displayed by one Venetian exhibitor, Pasquale Arquati, offers an indication of the sort of items available: 'antique bronzes, ink stands, figures, bells and seals. There were also busts, a beautifully carved knight in armour on horseback, a finely chiselled bull, and other artistic objects.'

Interior of the Italian Fine Arts Gallery in the Royal Exhibition Building during the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. Caption reads: Scene in Italian Fine Arts Gallery.
Photograph of the Italian Fine Art Gallery at the Melbourne International Exhibition, 1880.

But it was the famed Venetian glassware, Italian mosaics and majolica ceramic ware that commanded the most attention and praise. The Exhibition catalogue provides an incredibly visual description of the sorts of Murano glassware attendees could expect to admire:

There were two cases of glass exhibited in Melbourne, of so slight a texture and so light of weight that it looked as if it had been composed of a mere transparent film. There were mirrors framed in fragile flowers and leaves, lustres and candelabra, vases, tazze, centre-pieces, beakers, goblets, chalices and table glasses. Some were enamelled in various colours; others overlaid with lace work; others embossed with curious ornaments; others had a thin leaf of gold introduced between two layers of glass; others were sprinkled with turquoise, or agate, or gold; others with enamelled in imitation of precious stones; others were pagliesco, or colour which belongs especially to Murano. Caviliere Candiani sent articles of blown glass in imitation of marble and stone. The opal glass was very well represented, and many of the vases and fancy ornaments were made with delicate spiral stems branching out above, and ornamented with coloured flowers.'

Interior view of the Great Hall of the Royal Exhibition Building showing the Italian Statuary display during the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. Caption reads: 37. Italian Statuary.- Great Hall.
Photograph of Italian Statuary displayed on the mezzanine of the Exhibition Building in 1880.

The items

Cast bronze bell after Luigi and Giuseppe Valadier’s original Great Bell of St Peter’s Basilica (1786) in Rome, Italian, late nineteenth century

HT 22573 – Bell - Bronze, Italy, circa 1880

Artistic cast bronzes were a feature of both the Italian and French Courts at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, and were used as interior decoration during the nineteenth century.

The bronze and art castings on display in the Italian Court in 1880 were described as being 'very choice and attractive'. Cast bells were certainly amongst the items available for sale at the Exhibition. Manufacturers such as Pasquale Arquati of Venice exhibited a range of bronzes, inkstands, figures, bells and wax seals, while the firm of De Poli Brothers from Vittorrio, 'sent a bell of bronze'.

Although this bell has no manufacturer’s markings, the story passed down through family of John Twycross suggested that the bell was a copy of one of the bells at St Peter's Basilica in Rome. This is quite correct. It is a miniature version of the Great Bell known as 'Campanone', designed by the Italian goldsmith Luigi Valadier and cast by his son Giuseppe in 1786. It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Saints Peter, Paul and Gregory the Great, as well as Pope Pius V. 'Campanone' was blessed by Pope Pius VI in the year that it was cast and installed in St Peter’s Basilica. It is the largest of the six bells in the Basilica's belltower.

"This [bell] was traditionally used in our family for the times in our childhood we were sick enough to be kept home from school in bed. It has a deep, clear and loud bell tone that carried well down the long corridors of our home at Plunket St. Soon Mum would appear with a thermometer, an aspro, and a cool cordial and a piece of toast. My brother had asthma and used the bell at night when he had trouble breathing and mum would do exercises with him to help him breathe. In the kind of role reversal that happens as parents age, Mum also used the bell at night when she was sick recently. It is sure to wake up anyone with a listening ear." - Christine Twycross, John Twycross' great granddaughter

HT 22592 – Amphora - Majolica, Parrot & Wisteria, Ginori Manifattura, Italy, circa 1880

Ginori Majolica earthernware double handle amphora with parrot and wisteria decoration, Ginori Manifattura, La Doccia, Florence, circa 1870-80

Decorative amphora such as this one produced by the Ginori Factory at Doccia, outside of Florence in Italy, are in many ways typical of the late nineteenth century interest in Classical revival styles and ‘majolica’ or ‘faience’ ware, a form of ceramics decorated with a tin-glaze that when fired retains its bright colours.

Painted with climbing wisteria vines and coloured parrot on the front of the amphora, the male faces and unfurling acanthus leaf design of the handles is representative of earlier Roman ornamentation. Such work was highly valued, and Ginori – who exhibited faience and porcelain ware at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition - was awarded a First Order of Merit (gold medal) for Artistic Pottery.

The Ginori porcelain factory was established by the Marchese Carlo Ginori (1701-1757) in 1735, close to his villa at Doccia. The factory was operated by the Ginori family until 1896, at which time it was incorporated with a rival Milanese firm, the Società Ceramica Richard. The firm, now known as Richard Ginori, continues producing high quality art porcelain today.

Two decorative ceramic charger plates manufactured by Torquato Castellani, Rome, Italy, circa 1878

HT 22646 – Charger - Majolica, Lady With Fan, Torquato Castellani, Rome, Italy, circa 1878

With the opening up of Japan to the West following the fall of the Shogunate in 1867, Japanese artistic styles and culture began to increasingly influence Western art and design.

Oriental influences had already begun to appear in the seventeenth century, with the French term Chinoiserie describing a style referencing and influenced by Chinese art. From the mid-nineteenth century, Japonisme began to gain appreciation in the West, influencing decorative arts, furniture design, and painters alike.

Charger plates, such as these two, are large, decorative plates not used for the serving of food, but rather to bring colour and decoration to a dinner table. Often they could be hung on a wall as a purely decorative feature.

White ceramic plate with a two figures in traditional dress and a decorated horse.
HT 22647 – Charger - Majolica, Man on Horse & Lady with Fan, Torquato Castellani, Rome, Italy, circa 1878

These two examples, produced by Torquato Castellani in Rome, are typical of the period in incorporating an Oriental theme into a traditional Italian majolica style.

It also demonstrates some of the more recent innovations in mass production, being cast in a mould and having the design applied with a transfer before being painted by hand.

Castellani is not recorded as an exhibitor at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, but a sticker adhered to the underside of this charges suggests it was included in the Paris World Fair in 1878. It is likely that examples of his work were displayed by another exhibitor, possibly C. Tanfani who was also from Rome, and who exhibited majolica and other ceramic ware at the Melbourne Exhibition.

Decorative ceramic charger plate in the Iznik style, manufactured by Torquato Castellani, Rome, Italy, circa 1870s

HT 22613 – Charger - Majolica, Stylised Horses, Torquato Castellani, Rome, Italy, circa 1880

Oriental influences on Western decorative styles were not always confined to China, Japan, and the Far East. The rise of orientalism, a European fascination with all things oriental, extended across the Middle East and North Africa.

This Italian charger plate by Torquato Castellani of Rome has been decorated with an arabesque design, strongly influenced by Islamic motifs. It is a style not dissimilar to as Iznik pottery, after the town in central Turkey where this ceramic ware originates.

Castellani is not recorded as an exhibitor at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, but this charger has a sticker adhered to the underside suggested it was included for exhibition at the Paris World Fair in 1878. It is likely that examples of his work were displayed by another exhibitor, possibly C. Tanfani, also from Rome, who exhibited majolica and other ceramic ware.

HT 22614 – Charger - Majolica, Partridge & Flowers, Tanfani, Rome, Italy, circa 1880

Two decorative ceramic charger plates in an Islamic style, manufactured by C. Tanfani, Rome, Italy, circa 1870s

Much like the similarly decorated ceramic plates produced by the Roman firm of Torquato Castellani, this majolica charger signed by C. Tanfani, also of Rome, show the obvious influence of Persian and Islamic design on European decorative arts in the late nineteenth century.

In 1885, the Burlington Fine Art club in London, in response to the growing interest, held an exhibition of Persian and Arab pottery and metalwork. A review of the exhibition in London’s Times newspaper commented that not only was the collection of works interesting for ‘those who care about beautiful things, but above all, to the serious student of the history of Oriental Art’.

Plate painted with two blue peacocks and flowers in centre. Black rim has white, yellow, green floral motif.
HT 22615 – Charger - Majolica, Peacocks & Flowers, Tanfani, Rome, Italy, circa 1880

Produced to be displayed hung a wall, such colourfully glazed plates appealed to John Twycross. In addition to those manufactured by Torquato Castellani, Museum Victoria holds three examples of Tanfani plates in the John Twycross International Exhibitions collection, with several more similar examples being retained by Twycross' descendants.

Decorative ceramic charger plate with grotesques, manufactured by C. Tanfani, Rome, Italy, circa 1870s

HT 22645 – Charger - Majolica, Tanfani, Rome, Italy, circa 1880

Adopting a decorative style reminiscent of the original Italian renaissance majolica ware, this charger plate produced by C. Tanfani of Rome is an example of the sort of exhibits for which he was awarded a Third Order of Merit (certificate) at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition.

Painted with classical designs all’antica (in the 'antique' style), this plate recalls the Italian renaissance fascination with the Classical Roman period. Hybrid figures, such as the man and woman that appear to ‘grow’ out of the twisting, foliate design, are called grotesques.

Melbourne’s Argus newspaper writing at the time of the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition observed on display in the Italian Court ceramic ware that was ‘bordered with various enamels, exhibiting fantastic masks and grotesque heads, with beards widening into acanthus leaves’.

Even English ceramic companies, such as Minton, were quick to respond to the revival of majolica’s appeal, and produced their own versions of majolica ware that were exhibited in Melbourne.

HT 22832 – Vase - Glass, Compagnia Venezia-Murano, Venice, Italy, circa 1880

Cobalt blue glass vase with three spouts and applied glass decoration manufactured by the Compagnia Venezia Murano, Venice, Italy, circa 1880

When Venetian glass manufacturer Antonio Salviati was bought out by his business partner, Englishman Sir Austen Henry Layard, in 1877, the various families of glass craftsmen who had worked for the company separated.

The Seguso family continued to work for Layard and his newly named Compagnia Venezia Murano, while the Barovier family left with Salviati.

As the two families of glass makers had worked so closely for over a decade however, their designs continued to be very similar. So much so, that at the 1878 Paris International Exhibition the displays of the two companies looked almost identical.

Although this vase is attributed to the Compagnia Venezia Murano, who exhibited at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, similar examples are known that are attributed to the Barovier family glassmakers.

Red glass ewer with applied floral decoration manufactured by the Compagnia Venezia-Murano, Venice, Italy, circa 1880

Unlike the clear glassware produced by English firms, more familiar to Australian audiences at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, the vibrant colours and highly decorative forms created by Italian glass manufacturers led to them being described by one local newspaper as 'strange and fantastic'.

HT 22597 – Ewer - Glass, Compagnia Venezia-Murano, Venice, Italy, circa 1880

The renaissance of glass production in Venice during the nineteenth century resulted in a range of vases, ewers, and other products almost indistinguishable from their original sixteenth and seventeenth century models. 'There is scarcely a form or hue which cannot now be reproduced in all its delicacy, beauty, and infinite variety', Melbourne's Argus wrote at time of the Exhibition, 'and glass is such an unchanging material that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the old and the new'.

This red glass ewer with a fluted spout is decorated with applied glass floral clusters of green, white and yellow around the waist, a bronze serpent is entwined around the ewer's handle, while an similar tendril of clear glass is coiled around the ewer's spout. Such highly decorated glassware demonstrated the skill of the Murano glass manufacturers, and was evidently much admired by John Twycross, who purchased several Venetian glass vases and ewers from the Italian Court at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition.

In the 1950s, the Twycross family had it on display in the drawing room of the family home, Emmarine, in Elsternwick. It sat on top of a wooden book shelf, filled with other collection objects, next to the ruby glass epergne.

Three opaque glass ewers with floral decoration manufactured by the Compagnia Venezia-Murano, Venice, Italy, circa 1880

HT 22570 – Ewer - Glass, Compagnia Venezia-Murano, Venice, Italy, circa 1880 (1)

Unlike the clear glassware produced by English firms, more familiar to Australian audiences at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, the vibrant colours and highly decorative forms created by Italian glass manufacturers led to them being described by one local newspaper as 'strange and fantastic'.

This pair of pale blue glass ewers illustrate the highly decorative style and form of the Venetian glassware available at the Exhibition. The flattened bulbous-shaped ewers with serpentine handles are intricately patterned with spiralling flutes around the neck, with applied pink and blue flowers mounted around the body.

The renaissance of glass production in Venice during the nineteenth century resulted in a range of vases, ewers, and other products almost indistinguishable from their original sixteenth and seventeenth century models. 'There is scarcely a form or hue which cannot now be reproduced in all its delicacy, beauty, and infinite variety', Melbourne’s Argus wrote at time of the Exhibition:

... and glass is such an unchanging material that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the old and the new.

Transparent amber and opaque white glass vase manufactured by the Compagnia Venezia-Murano, Venice, Italy, circa 1880

HT 22604 – Vase - Glass, Compagnia Venezia-Murano, Venice, Italy, circa 1880 (1)

This striking vase in spiralling amber and white glass illustrates a traditional Venetian glass-blowing technique, and one that would have been much admired in Australia at the time of the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. John Twycross purchased multiple examples of decorative Italian glassware, much of it produced by the Compagnia Venezia-Murano who had a large display in the Italian Court at the Exhibition.

A very similar shaped vase, in yellow and red mottled glass with a clear glass applied band around the neck, is held in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington, England. It is attributed to the Venetian firm of Antonio Salviati & Co. Some of Salviati's workmen had previously worked for him during his partnership with Englishman Sir Austen Henry Layard.

In 1877, after the partnership separated, Layard formed the Compagnia Venezia-Murano, also taking with him workmen familiar with the earlier company's range. As a result, products produced by both the Compagnia and Salviati in the following years show strong similarities in style and shape.

Clear glass scallop shell vase with gold wash manufactured by the Compagnia Venezia-Murano, Venice, Italy, circa 1880

HT 22642 – Vase - Opaque Glass, Compagnia Venezia-Murano, Venice, Italy, circa 1880

Decoratively shaped into the form of a scallop shell and brushed with splashes of gold pigment wash, this glass vase is an excellent illustration of the technical abilities of the Venetian glass makers at the end of the nineteenth century.

Two opalescent glass goblets manufactured by the Compagnia Venezia-Murano, Venice, Italy, circa 1880

HT 22611 – Goblet - Opalescent Glass, Compagnia Venezia-Murano, Venice, Italy, circa 1880

These two opalescent glass goblets, of different shapes and one with applied red glass trim, were probably made by members of Venetian glass-manufacturing Seguso family, employed by the Compagnia Venezia-Murano.

The Compagnia (CVM) was established in 1877 by Englishman Sir Austen Henry Layard, a former business partner and financier of glass manufacturer Antonio Salviati with whom he had founded the Societa Anonima per azioni Salviati & Co. in 1866.

After the former business collapsed, Layard retained several of Salviati's craftsmen, including members of the Seguso family. Many of the products subsequently produced by CVM show the clear influence of the Seguso style, and similar items are published in CVM's catalogues from this period.

The Compagnia Venezia-Murano were awarded the highest prize at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, being the First Order of Merit (gold medal) for their exhibits.

Opalescent glass pitcher manufactured by the Compagnia Venezia-Murano, Venice, Italy, circa 1880

HT 22643 – Pitcher - Opalescent Glass, Compagnia Venezia-Murano, Venice, Italy, circa 1880

This glass pitcher with applied red trim decoration is probably from the same garniture as the two opalescent glass goblets also acquired by John Twycross at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, and was probably made by members of Venetian glass-manufacturing Seguso family, employed by the Compagnia Venezia-Murano.

The Compagnia (CVM) was established in 1877 by Englishman Sir Austen Henry Layard, a former business partner and financier of glass manufacturer Antonio Salviati with whom he had founded the Societa Anonima per azioni Salviati & Co. in 1866. After the former business collapsed, Layard retained several of Salviati's craftsmeni, including members of the Seguso family. Many of the products subsequently produced by CVM show the clear influence of the Seguso style, and similar items are published in CVM's catalogues from this period.

By the time of the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, a ready export market meant that glassware produced by the CVM was 'now well known all over Europe and in the United States', and was finding a captivated audience in Australia:

... the large and interesting collection of [Murano glassware] which has been brought out by S.S. Oivieri and Sarfatti, and displayed in the pavilion on the ground floor at the south-east angle of the building, is undoubtedly one of the features of the Exhibition.

The CVM were awarded the highest prize at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, being the First Order of Merit (gold medal) for their exhibits.

Indian Court

The British-India court was one of the largest and most spectacular of the colonial courts. There was a vast array of elaborately carved furniture made in exotic black wood, including tables inlaid with foliate patterns in mosaic, ivory, silver, mother of pearl and gold, that were so fine they appeared to be hand painted, and claw footed cabinets made in sweetly scented sandalwood. There was exquisite carved ivory, bone and wood fancy articles, inlaid boxes, jewellery, richly embroidered silk and cloth of gold, and displays of native dress, ceremonial weapons and curiosities.

Interior view of the Indian display in the Royal Exhibition Building during the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. Caption reads: 54. Indian Court.- Great Hall.
Photograph of the Indian Court at the Melbourne International Exhibition, 1880.

The Court's exhibits were essentially grouped by region, as a visiting journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald observed:

those from Bengal, from Bombay, from Madras, from the Punjaub, and from the north-west provinces, and in each of these groups will be found illustrations of the manners and customs of the people, their skill in the arts and manufactures, and their natural resources and raw materials.

Upon entering the Indian Court, visitors were greeted by the attractively arranged displays around the walls of carpets in striking design and colour, 'disposed so harmoniously as to avoid anything like gaudiness.' Exhibition attendees could purchase a carpet costing anywhere between £10 and £80. While it was noted that such prices might seem initially high, one journalist observed that 'it would not prove so in the long run ... Carpets of this kind have been known to last, in spite of heavy and continuous wear, for over 50 and 60 years, and such is the permanency of the Indian dyes that the colour never fades, and the goods look almost as well when they are nearly worn out as they do at first.'

Interior view of the Great Hall in the Royal Exhibition Building showing the Indian display during the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. Caption reads: 53. Indian Court.- Great Hall.
Photograph of the Indian Court at the Melbourne International Exhibition, 1880.

Ivory carvings from the country's North-West provinces depicted Hindu gods, elephants, Ganges river boats and their crew, and bullock carts. Shawls, ranging in quality from the plainest cashmere to the highest quality silk of oriental patterns; brass work of such quality that it was awarded first prize at the Melbourne Exhibition, along with Mahomed Hussein's painting on ivory which also secured a gold medal.

Much like China, tea was an important export commodity back to Europe. At the time of the International Exhibition, efforts were being made by the Tea Syndicate of India to establish a presence in Melbourne to import Indian teas into the Colony. Melbournian industrial chemist, James Cosmo Newbery, was reported to have analysed examples of Indian tea and proclaimed them superior than their Chinese counterparts. In order to encourage Melbourne's buying public to reach the same conclusion, visitors to the Indian Court were offered a fragrant cup of tea in the adjoining Indian pavilion.

Interior of tea room, at the Melbourne International Exhibition, Published in the Illustrated Australian News, 4 December 1880.
Interior of tea room, at the Melbourne International Exhibition, Published in the Illustrated Australian News, 4 December 1880.

The approach was successful, for by the end of the Exhibition in April 1881, it was noted that in one day in the Melbourne market, more Indian tea had been sold 'than had previously been imported in a whole year'. Indian Court exhibitors were successful in a number of categories, with a particular strength being in the fields of furniture and jewellery. Deschamps & Co of Madras won a First Order of Merit (Silver) for their 'large cabinet, in rosewood and carved sandalwood' in Jury Section XI for 'Furniture and Accessories'. Similarly awarded were the firms of Jaffer, Sulliman and Co, Bombay, and Nanda Jethi Sonar, from Bengal, that were both recognised with a First Order of Merit (Silver) for their gold and silversmith work.

The items

Carved ivory doll house furniture and decorative pieces, India, late nineteenth century

Decorated in traditional Indian veneer and inlay techniques, items such as this ivory box that could easily be adopted for a variety of uses such as a jewellery or sewing box or storing fans, and would have appealed to the largely western audiences of Melbourne’s 1880 International Exhibition.

Doll House Furniture - Sofa & Chair, Ivory, India, circa 1880.
Doll House Furniture - Sofa & Chair, Ivory, India, circa 1880.

The technique of sheathing wooden boxes in an ivory or horn veneer developed in the mid eighteenth century in the Indian coastal city of Vizagapatam (present day Visakhapatam), hence such boxes are often referred to as 'Vizagapatam Boxes'. Into the veneer are inlaid fine mosaic pieces of metal or other woods, to produce highly detailed surface decoration.

Exhibitor G. Veeranna Chinna of Vizagapatam had one of the more impressive displays of such items at the Indian Court. Several months before the Exhibition opened to the public in October 1880, one Australian newspaper was already reporting that an exhibitor from Vizagapatam - possibly Veeranna Chinna - was sending out 'a fine collection' of ivory and sandalwood ware.

Veeranna Chinna displayed ivory boxes, glove boxes and other small boxes made from bison horn, and fragrant smelling sandalwood card-cases, 'every object being of his own handiwork'. He won a bronze First Order of Merit for his examples of carved and inlaid woodwork.

Carved ivory basket, Indian, late nineteenth century

Finely carved ivory items, such as this delicate basket, were a particularly noted feature among the Indian exhibits at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition.

Basket - Ivory, India, circa 1880.
Basket - Ivory, India, circa 1880.

Ivories were exhibited under Class 29, which covered 'fancy articles': decorative items produced from sandalwood, ivory, leather and basket-work. Exhibits of carved ivory came mainly from two regions of India, Madras, on India's south east coast, and the north western provinces, and Punjab. Ivory carvings from the country's north west depicted Hindu gods, and more domestic subjects, such as elephants, Ganges River boats and their crews, and bullock carts.

Although India had long been part of the British Empire, the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition was the first opportunity most Australians had had to experience examples of the country's crafts and art works. The Argus later wrote:

Previous to 1880 little was known in this country of Indian art manufacturers and products, but the Exhibition held in that year awakened a new interest in the progress and advancement made by that great dependency of the British Crown, and brought to notice a variety of wares and commodities which have since found a permanent place in the Australian markets.

Indian ivory carvings were especially well-regarded at the Exhibition. The Bengal Sub-Committee were awarded a First Order of Merit for their display of carved ivory, while exhibitors Davi Sahi and Chumba Mal from Amritsar in Punjab, near the Pakistan border, were recognised with a Second Order of Merit.

Carved rosewood side table, Indian, late nineteenth century

Among the items specifically listed in the inventory of the Twycross family home, Emmarine, at the time of John Twycross' death in 1889, is this 'carved Indian table'. It was situated in the Drawing Room, acting as a shelf for a pair of Japanese vases, two nautilus shells, a Japanese tea set, a sandalwood box and three lacquers that sat on top. In the twentieth century, it followed the family to their new home, an Edwardian weatherboard house in Elsternwick, also named Emmarine, where it sat in the bay window of the new home's Drawing Room.

HT 22539 – Table - Carved, Indian Rosewood, India, circa 1880

As with ivory objects, Indian artisans demonstrated a high degree of craftsmanship in skill with their displays of carved wooden furniture at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. One of the most striking features of the Indian Court was a showcased made of deodar wood, and wonderfully carved in the style of the north western provinces. The Madras firm of Deschampes & Co. demanded attention with their attractively carved drawingroom cabinet, made from rosewood and sandalwood and intricately carved in high relief with scenes from Hindu mythology, The cabinet was awarded a silver First Order of Merit by the Jury in the 'Furniture and Accessories' section.

'The carving was perfectly executed', one reviewer wrote of the cabinet, 'and reflected the greatest credit on the Hindu workmen; and the sandalwood filled the court with its perfume. The display of furniture was very creditable'.

Two Vizagapatam boxes of ivory and wood with ivory and metal inlay, India, late nineteenth century

Decorated in traditional Indian veneer and inlay techniques, items such as this ivory box that could easily be adopted for a variety of uses such as a jewellery or sewing box or storing fans, and would have appealed to the largely western audiences of Melbourne’s 1880 International Exhibition.

HT 22508 – Vizagapatam Box - Wood with Ivory Veneer and Metal Inlay, India, Mid 19th Century
HT 22509 – Vizagapatam Box - Wood with Ivory and Metal Inlay, India, Mid 19th Century

The technique of sheathing wooden boxes in an ivory or horn veneer developed in the mid eighteenth century in the Indian coastal city of Vizagapatam (present day Visakhapatam), hence such boxes are often referred to as 'Vizagapatam Boxes'. Into the veneer are inlaid fine mosaic pieces of metal or other woods, to produce highly detailed surface decoration.

Exhibitor G. Veeranna Chinna of Vizagapatam, Madras, had one of the more impressive displays of such items at the Indian Court. Several months before the Exhibition opened to the public in October 1880, one Australian newspaper was already reporting that an exhibitor from Vizagapatam - possibly Veeranna Chinna - was sending out 'a fine collection' of ivory and sandalwood ware.

Veeranna Chinna displayed ivory boxes, glove boxes and other small boxes made from bison horn, and fragrant smelling sandalwood card-cases, 'every object being of his own handiwork'. He won a bronze First Order of Merit for his examples of carved and inlaid woodwork.

Carved ivory box lid, India, late nineteenth century

Small, but a beautifully carved example of Indian ivory work, this lid to a box demonstrates the great technical skill of the Indian artisans. Deeply carved, the scrolling grape vine, with its bunches of grapes, stand in high relief of the lid surface, so that the thin vines branches seemingly float between the broad, flat leaves.

Artistic ivory box lid with leaves and grapes.
HT 22716 – Box Lid - Ivory, India, circa 1880

Ivories were exhibited under Class 29, which covered 'fancy articles'; decorative items produced from sandalwood, ivory, leather and basket-work. Exhibits of carved ivory came mainly from two regions of India, Madras, on India's south east coast, and the north western provinces, and Punjab. Ivory carvings from the country's north west depicted Hindu gods, and more domestic subjects, such as elephants, Ganges River boats and their crews, and bullock carts.

Although India had long been part of the British Empire, the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition was the first opportunity most Australians had had to experience examples of the country's crafts and art works.

Indian ivory carvings were especially well-regarded at the Exhibition. The Bengal Sub-Committee were awarded a First Order of Merit for their display of carved ivory, while exhibitors Davi Sahi and Chumba Mal from Amritsar in Punjab, near the Pakistan border, were recognised with a Second Order of Merit.

Japanese Court

The Japanese Court at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition was truly magnificent. Great silk flags depicting the national symbol of the rising sun were suspended above a variety of stands and displays that showcased every form of Japanese art and industry, all set against a backdrop of blue and white screens.

Interior view of the Japanese display in the Royal Exhibition Building during the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. Caption reads: 51. Front of Japanese Court.- Main Avenue.
Photograph of the entrance to the Japanese Court at the Melbourne International Exhibition, 1880.

The appeal of the Japanese Court lay in its adherence to traditional crafts and commodities. As the Argus newspaper reported at the beginning of October 1880, a survey, even the most cursory, of the purely and inimitably Japanese portion of the Exhibition at once calls up the old feeling of mingled wonder, admiration, and delight. Here ancient Nippon is all herself, as though no ship of the Western stranger had ever furrowed the tranquil waters of her lovely Mediterranean sea.

Exhibition attendees could marvel at a range of decorative arts, commodities and products. The whole process of silk manufacture was on display from the humble silk worm to the lustrous finished product, richly embroidered with humming birds and exotic flowers. There were netsuke and okimono ivory carvings, capturing small scenes of Japanese daily life, customs, mythologies, and amusing incidents. Lacquer cabinets, boxes and ornaments resembling precious metal, marvelous to behold; magnificent bronze vases and statues, elaborately wrought and enameled; and a vast display of exquisite porcelain and earthenware vases and tea sets, each translucent vessel delicately painted, enameled and gilded with flowers, insects and birds from an Eastern paradise.

Interior view of a temporary annexe in the Royal Exhibition Building showing the Japanese display during the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. Caption reads: 52. Interior of Japanese Court.- Temporary Annexe.
Photograph of the interior of the Japanese Court at the Melbourne International Exhibition, 1880.

Visitors to the Court were provided with a fragrant cup of tea for their delectation whilst perusing the displays. Despite the extraordinary craftsmanship on display, one critic who subsequently sought to educate Melbourne attendees felt that the Japanese sense of beauty was perhaps lost a little on the Exhibition's largely Western audience:

'the Japanese court in the Exhibition has scarcely received the attention it deserves from visitors ... many of those who do enter it pass over its extremely interesting contents with a listless, cursory, and somewhat superficial glance. I have selected some of its choicer exhibits for comment and analysis, because I look upon them as possessing a special and exceptional value in connexion with art-industry and art-education.'

The items

Okimono, Netsuke & other carvings

HT 22580 – Okimono - Ivory, Elephant & Musicians, Japan, Late Edo Period, Aug 1865

An "okimono" is a small, carved ivory object created specifically for display. Typically "okimono" depict domestic scenes like family groups, farmers, fishermen, and children, or studies of birds, animals and flowers. Okimono were often presented in the "tokonoma", an interior alcove or recess in Japanese homes for the display of pictures or decorative art objects. During the Meiji period (1868-1912), many "okimono" were carved explicitly for export to the west.

"Netsuke" were originally practical objects carved from ivory, wood, nuts, etc. From the 17th century, Japanese men used them as toggles to fasten cords attached to their "obi' (kimono sash). Though they continued to have this practical use, "netsuke" became prized objects for their craftsmanship, with the carvings that regularly referenced Japanese folklore and life.

Japanese pottery & porcelain

HT 22558 – Bowl - Ceramic, Butterflies & Flowers, Japan, Early Meiji Period, 1868-1880

Pottery is one of Japan's oldest art forms. While "Satsuma" ware and "Imari" porcelain was produced primarily for export to the west, kilns across Japan produced fine porcelain, earthenware, pottery, stoneware, and blue-and-white ware for internal consumption.

Imari Porcelain

HT 22546 – Vase - Imari Ware, Two Samurai, Hichozan Fukagawa, Arita, Japan, late Edo-early Meiji Period, 1856-1875

Imari porcelain takes its name from the port-city of the same name in the Saga Prefecture on Japan's southern island of Kyushu. Imari porcelain was produced by Korean and Chinese potters in the town of Arita on the island of Kyushu. In Japan Imari is also know as Arita-yaki. The style gained popularity in the seventeenth-century, and between the second half of the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century was exported to Europe in great quantities. Following the Meiji restoration in 1868, the popularity of Imari flourished again, and exports surged.

There are many types of Imari, but the style most popularly associated with the name is Kinrande, a coloured porcelain with a cobalt blue underglaze and red and gold overglaze.

Satsuma Ware

HT 22616 – Compote - Satsuma, Birds & Chrysanthemums, Kin Kozan, Japan, early Meiji Period, 1872-1880

Satsuma is a type of Japanese earthenware pottery typified by rich gold and polychrome decoration under an ivory-coloured glaze. The style, developed by Korean potters, originated in the Japanese province of Satsuma on the island of Kyushu. Following Japan's invasion of Korea in the sixteenth century, Korean potters were forcibly relocated to Japan to establish a pottery industry.

The west's first exposure to satsuma ware was at the 1867 Paris Exposition Universelle. It gained immediate popularity, and almost all satsuma created in the latter half of the nineteenth-century was made for export. Within Japan there was little interest in this form of ceramic decorative art. Factories and studios developed to meet the increasing demand in Europe and America, often producing relatively low quality export items. Artisan studios, however, continued to produce fine, high quality satsuma ware, now highly prized among collectors.

Cloisonné

HT 22612 – Plate - Cloisonne, Cranes in Flight, Kodenji Hayashi, Japan, early Meiji Period, 1868-1880

Cloisonné is a decorative metalwork technique of creating a pattern, often through fine wire, after which the resulting areas are filled with coloured enamel. The technique derives from the French term for compartments, cloisons.

The process of inlaid enamelling (cloisonné) in Japan dates back to the eighth century. Popular throughout Japan over the centuries, technical developments in the nineteenth century saw it reach its zenith during the Meiji period (1868-1912). The most important technical development being the 'Yuusen-shippo' method developed by Tsunekichi Kaji in 1833, in which fine filigree wires of brass, gold or silver are glued rather than soldered onto a base metal.

Then in 1868 Tsukamoto Kaisuke developed a process of applying filigree wire and fired enamel to ceramic pottery, known as 'Jitai Shippo'. And in 1879, Namikawa Sosuke (1847 to 1910) developed a technique for creating totally wireless enamel ware, 'Musen-shippo'. The elimination of wire enabled the artisan to create elaborate scenic designs that were not possible with wire.

Ukiyo-e Woodblock Prints

HT 22538 – Print - Woodblock, Genji Viewing Snow From A Balcony, Japan, Jul 1867

Ukiyo-e is a genre of woodblock prints that gained popularity among the newly prosperous merchant class in Edo period Japan (1603-1867). A number of artisans were involved in the preparation of a ukiyo-e print: the artist who designed the image, the carver who cut the woodblock, the printer who inked the woodblock, and the publisher who promoted and distributed the final work. Typical subject matter included beautiful women, kabuki actors, sumo wrestlers, scenes from history and folk lore, landscapes, and erotica.

Maki-e Lacquer & Shibayama

Lidded decorated, four-legged box with tassled ties.
HT 22512 – Box - Ko-Karabitsu, Maki-e Lacquer, Japan, Late Edo to Early Meiji Period, 1850-1880

Maki-e lacquer is a technique in which ground precious metals, such as gold or silver, were sprinkled into a design laid out in lacquer using small brushes or bamboo tubes to create fine, often highly detailed and intricate decoration. Other metals could be employed to achieve different colours, such as brass, copper, platinum and pewter. The technique was first developed during Japan's Heian period (794-1185) and flourished as a decorative style during the Edo (1600-1868) and subsequent Meiji periods (1868-1912). Maki-e lacquer objects, popular with court nobles, royal families and military leaders, symbolised status and power.

Shibayama is a technique in which semi-precious stones, shell, tortoiseshell, etc. is inlayed onto ivory, wood or lacquer, then intricately carved. First introduced in Japan in the 18th century, shibayama pieces were made almost exclusively for export to the west.

Chinese Court

The Chinese Court occupied a relatively small space on the western side of the exhibition building's northern transept at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. Because the Chinese government had 'refrained from taking any part in the display', displays were contributed predominantly by private exhibitors or businesses with interests in China.

Coloured lithographic poster promoting the Oriental Tea Company's packet teas, designed by Charles Turner (1869-1912) and printed by the Melbourne firm Troedel & Co, circa 1881-1890.
Coloured lithographic poster promoting the Oriental Tea Company's packet teas, designed by Charles Turner (1869-1912) and printed by the Melbourne firm Troedel & Co, circa 1881-1890.

Consequently, the Court's central attraction was a large hexagonal show-case, in which were displayed the exhibits of Oriental Tea Company whose head offices were in Flinders Lane, Melbourne. Visitors to the Court could mount the pedestal of carpeted steps surrounding the case, and gaze through the glass at the neatly arranged pile of packaged teas.

The items

Carved export ivory box, China, late Qing Dynasty, circa 1860-1880

HT 22577 – Intricately carved ivory fan box from China, late Qing Dynasty, circa 1860-1880

Profusely carved with intricate detail, the surface of this ivory box is decorated with an abundance of people going about their daily life in a Chinese town, framed by a scrolling foliate border of leaves, peonies and other flowers.

Examples of ivory carving were featured in a glass showcase in the Chinese Court at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition were they were noted for being 'executed with great delicacy'.

Puzzle ball chess set in red and white ivory (44 pieces), China, late Qing Dynasty, circa 1870-1880

HT 23157 – Chess Set - Cantonese Puzzle Ball, Carved Ivory, White & Red, Chinese, circa 1880

The game of chess has a long history in China. Chess sets such as this one produced in the second half of the nineteenth century offered a means for the ivory carver to demonstrate their incredible skill.

Each piece is mounted on a stand incorporating a 'puzzle ball' - a hollow orb, with a smaller carved ball free to move around inside. Usually carved from ivory, puzzle balls were produced as separate decorative items mounted on wooden stands, often with multiply layers, and deeply carved and decorated surfaces.

Visitors to the Chinese Court at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition would have almost certainly seen examples of chess sets such as this one. One correspondent for the Argus, describing the Court, noted an ‘interesting collection of fans, silk handkerchiefs, ivory carvings, &c., displayed in a glass case ... Among the carvings are combs and sets of chessmen, all executed with great delicacy’

In the 1950s, when John Twycross' grandson, John Wilton, lived in Plunket Street in Brighton, pieces from this chess set were displayed on a shelf on 'the radiogram', a long, wooden piece of furniture that the family had had specially made, for the lounge room.

Pair of finely carved mother of pearl shells, China, late Qing Dynasty, circa 1860-1880

HT 22576 – Shell - Carved Mother-of-Pearl, China, Late Qing Dynasty, circa 1880

With their highly reflective surfaces intricately carved with people, horses and scenes of Chinese domestic life in bas-relief, this pair of mother of pearl shells are a beautiful example of the skill of the Chinese artisan.

Such carved shells were often displayed on rosewood stands, missing in this example, and were produced for a Western export market as examples of China's decorative arts. The could depict scenes from popular Chinese folk tales, the meaning of which was often lost on the Western buyer.

It is quite likely that John Twycross had several examples of similar items, for in the inventory of his estate in 1889, 'shells' are noted in several rooms of Emmarine. These two examples might be best identified as the '2 large shells' recorded as being displayed on the mantelpiece in Emmarine's drawing room.

Carved bone ‘zhe shan’ folding fan, China, late Qing Dynasty, circa 1860-1880

HT 22652 – Fan - Carved Bone, China, circa 1880

In the 'History of Song', an official history of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) commissioned in 1348, it is recorded that a Japanese monk called Chonen brought the first folding fans to China, making a gift of them to the Chinese Emperor in 988. In the following century, Korean envoys to China also brought folding fans with them of Japanese origins.

In China they became known as zhe shan (literally, 'folding fan') and although there was initially some association with their use by those of lower social status, by the Ming Dynasty (1468-1644) they had gained broad acceptance.

Folding fans reached their peak of popularity during the subsequent Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), during which time they were often richly decorated with painted scenes and calligraphy. As an industry developed around the manufacture of zhe shan, and artists explored new and creative ways in which to decorate the challenging shape, the commercial value increased. No longer were fans purely used for the practical purpose of keeping cool, they had attained an artistic and social status among the wealthy and court elite.

Introduced to Europe in the sixteenth century, folding fans quickly gained in popularity and became a staple amongst women's fashion accessories, without which 'a lady of rank was incomplete'. One Australian newspaper wrote in 1880, 'In fan-making, the Chinese and French are the great rivals, and may be said to monopolise the supply of the whole world'.

Embroidered silk and ivory ‘tuan shan’ round fan, China, late Qing Dynasty, circa 1860-1880

HT 22651 – Fan - Silk & Ivory, China, Late Qing Dynasty, circa 1880

Beautifully embroidered in silk depicting birds in a landscape of fir and peony trees, this Chinese round fan represents one of the most ancient forms of Chinese fans.

The earliest fans found in China were originally made of feathers and date to more than 2000 years old. The round fan, or tuan shan, rose in popularity during the Han Dynasty (202BC-204AD) and appears in numerous examples of Chinese art being used by both genders.

The flat, round surface of the fan was often decorated which in turn gave rise to a distinct industry of 'fan painting'. Some examples, such as this one, were intricately embroidered with designs, and the wooden, bone or ivory handles were similarly carved.

Items such as this fan might have been displayed either as silk produce or 'fancy articles' at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, and were probably among the exhibits of the British exporting firm, Knight, Bandinel and Company. They were displayed in a glass case alongside silk handkerchiefs, ivory carvings, combs, and chess pieces.

Soapstone temple, attributed to Knight, Bandinel & Co., Newchang (Yingkou), China, circa 1880

HT 22655 – Temple - Soapstone, Knight, Bandinel & Co, Newchwang, China, circa 1880

Beautifully carved in soapstone, this small statuette represents the very recognisable form of a traditional Chinese temple, or pagoda. Originally derived from the Indian stupa, during the Sui (581-618 AD) and following Tang Dynasties (960-1279 AD), the pagoda began to adopt the octagonal base illustrated by this model.

Although serving a religious purpose, the pagoda has long been praised in Chinese literature for the wonderful views afforded from the upper tiers. The famous Chinese Tang Dynasty poet, Du Fu, described his experience of climbing the 'Big Goose Pagoda' in the then capital, Chang'an (present-day Xi'an) in 752 AD, writing 'The high standard straddles the blue sky, the cold wind at no times ceases. I myself am not of carefree heart; Climbing here I turn over our hundred woes'.

Operating out of the north-eastern Chinese port city of Newchang, (Niuzhuang, present-day Yingkou), the exporting firm of Knight, Bandinel and Company submitted numerous exhibits for inclusion in the Chinese Court at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. One description of their exhibits in on Australian newspaper offers an indication of the diversity of the company’s commercial interests:

Knight, Bandinel and Co., of Newchang, exhibit felt stockings, shoes, and caps; also hemp, jute, bean, castor and paint oils, and goatskin rugs, black dogskin robe, bottled vegetables, and samshoo – an ardent spirit, that, like Bourbon whisky, is bound to kill at forty rods.

Knight, Bandinel and Co. were the only exhibitor under Class 29, which covered 'leather-work, fancy articles, and basket-work', and are recorded as having displayed decorative 'stone ornaments'. It is likely this item was amongst their exhibits. When Charlotte and Lilian Twycross moved to 23 Seymour Road, the pagoda followed. Photos of the drawing room in the mid-twentieth century show it perched on the edge of the mantlepiece.

I clearly recall this being a favourite piece to play with, and the cool, smooth texture of the stone pieces. ... It also joined the group of Japanese Okimono figures and Chinese chess pieces from the radiogram, for extensive stories that I told to myself that were set in China. ...The temple or pagoda as my mother called it, had a wobble and I compared it to the leaning tower of Pisa as it did not respond to my efforts to straighten it.
— Christine Twycross, John Twycross' great granddaughter

Porcelain vase with rats, peony flowers, birds and butterfly decoration, China, late Qing Dynasty, circa 1870-1880

HT 22569 – Vase - Porcelain, Flowers, Birds, Butterflies & Rats, China, Late Qing Dynasty, circa 1880

Similar in decorative style to the pair of Chinese porcelain tea cups and plate, this painted vase incorporates the same artistic motifs of birds, butterflies and peony flowers, here complimented by the addition of two rats painted in cobalt blue with gilt highlights.

In the same way that the peony flower represents wealth and prosperity, butterflies symbolise joy and longevity, rats too have an important meaning in Chinese art. While in Western culture rats have come to be regarded negatively, in Chinese the rat assumes the position as the first of the twelve zodiac animals.

Rats symbolises courage and intelligence, but are often also depicted with melons as both reproduce in abundance, and therefore have come to represent fertility. On this vase, the two rats climb among the branches of a melon tree.

In the Chinese Court at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, only three exhibitors displayed ceramic ware and all of them included vases amongst the items on display.

Porcelain plate with peony, birds and butterfly decoration, China, late Qing Dynasty, circa 1870-1880

HT 22650 – Plate - Porcelain, Birds, Butterflies & Chrysanthemums, China, Late Qing Dynasty, circa 1880

Richly painted with birds, butterflies and peony flowers, this Chinese porcelain plate, probably from the early Guangxu period (1875-1908), is both decorative and imbued with subtle meaning.

The peony flower has a long history of ornamental and artistic use in Chinese art, and in 1903 was declared the country's national flower. It is used to denote wealth and prosperity, a meaning also given by its Chinese name, fùguìhua – 'flower of riches and honour'. Butterflies are symbols of summer, beauty, romance and dreams, but can also represent longevity, and are often depicted alongside the flowers that attract them, as in this instance.

In the relatively small Chinese Court at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, only three exhibitors displayed ceramic ware.

Porcelain bowl with fruit trees on a circular wooden mount, China, late Qing Dynasty, Daoguang period and mark, 1821-1850

HT 22556 – Bowl - Porcelain, Fruit Trees, China, Late Qing Dynasty, Daoguang Period, 1821-1850

This small porcelain bowl, depicting scrolling fruit trees and birds in green enamel, is decorated in an ornamental style known as famille jaune, meaning that coloured enamels are painted over a bright yellow ground. The style developed from famille rose, or 'soft colours' which first appeared during the reign of the Qing Dynasty Emperor Yongzhen (1723-1735) from the Jingdezhen kilns, in Jiangxi Provence.

The greater range of muted colours of the famille rose style appeared at around the same time as the rise of Chinoiserie, or Chinese-style decorative arts in Europe. Because of its popularity for the Western export market, the style is sometimes referred to as 'foreign colours'.

In the late eighteenth and into the nineteenth century, the bolder famille jaune decoration emerged. This particular bowl is marked on the underside with the stamp of the Daoguang period (1821-1850), indicating its manufacture during the reign of the eighth Emperor of the Qing Dynasty.

Porcelain jug with polychrome enamel decoration, China, late Qing Dynasty, circa 1870-1880

HT 22622 – Jug - Earthenware, China, Late Qing Dynasty, circa 1880

This vibrantly painted porcelain jug was probably produced for a Western export market. It is not of a traditional Chinese form, but rather the shape of the body, the flared lip and the ornately scrolled handle suggest a style more common to a European, possibly English, tea service.

Pair of porcelain teacups with peony, birds and butterfly decoration, China, late Qing Dynasty, circa 1870-1880

Decorative teacup with colourful Chinese scene that includes three figures.
HT 22623 – Teacup - Earthenware, China, Late Qing Dynasty, circa 1880

Richly painted with birds, butterflies and peony flowers, this pair of porcelain tea cups, probably dating from the early Guangxu period (1875-1908), is both decorative and imbued with subtle meaning.

The peony flower has a long history of ornamental and artistic use in Chinese art, and in 1903 was declared the country's national flower. It is used to denote wealth and prosperity, a meaning also given by its Chinese name, fùguìhua – 'flower of riches and honour'. Butterflies are symbols of summer, beauty, romance and dreams, but can also represent longevity, and are often depicted alongside the flowers that attract them, as in this instance.

In the relatively small Chinese Court at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, only three exhibitors displayed ceramic ware.

White-glazed ceramic bowl with floral decoration, probably Chinese, late Qing Dynasty, Guangxu Period, 1875-1908

Beautiful Chinese porcelain bowl or cup.
HT 22640 – Bowl - Earthernware, China, Late Qing Dynasty, Guangxu Period, 1875-1908

This small white-glazed stem bowl with coloured floral blossom decoration is probably Chinese, and has a partially illegible stamp on the base of the stem which appears to be a Guangxu reign stamp, indicating that it was produced during the reign of the Emperor Guangxu (1875-1908).

Such a date would align with its purchase by John Twycross at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, one of only a few objects he purchased from the Chinese Court. Instead, probably influenced by his nephew who lived in Tokyo, he bought heavily from the Japanese Court.

The Chinese Court at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition was relatively small, a point which was regretted by several commentators at the time who had hoped the Exhibition would provide the opportunity to make a stronger comparison between the two Asian cultures. The quality of items sent was also judged poorly, as one journalist for the Argus wrote:

The Chinese are great at the ceramic art, and there are a variety of specimens of their pottery shown here. They are on the whole rather disappointing, and compare unfavourably with the Japanese productions of a similar kind, both in material, shape, and colouring.

Ceramic tile with Japanese scene, China, late Qing Dynasty, circa 1850-1880

HT 22625 – Tile - China, circa 1880

A Chinese Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) ceramic tile with a painted scene depicting two Japanese samurai, holding flaming torches, approaching a house. Inside, a woman looks out, watching their auctions with alarm. The border is richly decorated with floral and geometric patterns with gilt highlights.

The Minor Courts

The minor courts were small, nationally themed courts with no commission to oversee their interests. By-and-large exhibits in the minor courts were coordinated by private collectors or commercial agents keen to advertise a particular nations primary export product, or educate foreigners about a nations cultural practices.

Interior view of the Great Hall of the Royal Exhibition Building showing the minor courts display in the Royal Exhibition Building during the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. Caption reads: 56. Minor Courts.- Great Hall
Photograph of displays in the minor courts at the Melbourne International Exhibition, 1880.

Minor courts - like China in 1880 - added great variety and colour to exhibitions and like the larger courts, many exhibited material that was offered for sale, providing collectors like John Twycross the opportunity to add to their collections.

The items

Tortoise (Geochelone elegans), India or Sri Lanka, late nineteenth century

The 1880s International Exhibitions held in Melbourne showcased not only the latest in fine and decorative arts, industry and technology, but also strange and unusual objects - such as this shell of an Indian star tortoise - that would have appealed to late Victorian tastes.

HT 22658 – Tortoise Shell - Indian Star Tortoise (Geochelone elegans), Indian or Sri Lankan, circa 1880

Photographs depicting some of the exhibits in the so-called 'Minor Courts' – countries such as South Africa, Mauritius, China – show exhibits of ostrich feathers, elephant tusks, and deer horns. Even larger courts of countries within the British Empire, like India and Ceylon, captured the imagination with exotic displays of elephant skulls, tusks, and other items that would have been unusual and exciting to the Exhibition’s visitors.

Ebony cigar cases and ink wells, carved ivory elephants and elephants' tusks, porcupine-quill workboxes, and tortoise-shell boxes were among the many unusual products on display in the Ceylon Court that would have appealed to Victorian collectors for their oddity as much as their decorative value.

Damascus bladed kris and wooden sheath, Malaysia, late nineteenth century

Believed to be vested with magical powers, the kris is a distinctive form of a dagger common across Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Thailand. The Court of the Straits Settlements - a group of British territories on the Malayan Peninsula including Singapore - had two exhibitors at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition who exhibited displays of 'native' weapons, and it is likely John Twycross acquired it from this court.

HT 22523 – Kris - Sumbawa Island, Indonesia, circa 1880

Originally produced with a straight blade, the kris' wavy blade is now a recognisable feature of this particular weapon. The kris is sometimes seen as a good luck charm, ensuring good fortune for its owner. Others were thought to carry bad luck. Conservation tests on the blade of this kris have found traces of arsenic; a sure indication of 'bad luck' for anyone cut by its blade.

Like the dagger's handle, which is often decoratively carved and inlaid with metals, the warangka, or sheath, is often also elaborately decorated. The warangka for this kris is relatively modest, decorated with a repeating pattern of painted gilt floral bands.

Various bamboo spears, probably Malaysia, late nineteenth century

Displays of 'native' weapons were popular in colonial Australia. By the 1860s, the Public Library in Melbourne had a display of Australian aboriginal weapons on the main stairs near the foyer.

HT 22494 – Spear - Split Cane, Bamboo, Asia, circa 1880

Like the kris dagger, also in the John Twycross collection, this group of split bamboo spears was probably purchased from the Straits Settlements Court at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. The Exhibition's official catalogues records that against,

... the wall at the end of the 'Straits' Court was a fine array of weapons used by Malays and by natives of Borneo, Java, Sumatra, and the Eastern Archipelago. A sheaf of Malay spears was arranged in the centre, but these weapons are hardly ever used now by the different tribes.

The display was probably part of the exhibits of F.A. Swettenham, who was listed as having displayed a collection of 'arms used by Malays, and by natives of Borneo'. Although the official catalogue suggests such weapons were no longer in use by the late nineteenth century, like the kris, tests conducted by the Museum's conservation staff revealed traces of poison on the tips of these spears.

Two Solomon Island clubs, late nineteenth century

Many functional and ornamental weapons were displayed in the various colonial settlement courts at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. This pair of clubs crafted in the Solomon Islands, complemented John Twycross' other colonial weapons: the kris dagger and spears from the Straits Settlement.

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