National Museum of Australia Acquires Burke & Wills Breastplate

Bonhams & Goodman’s fine art auction in Adelaide has defied market trends and provided new confidence to art collectors and dealers. Over 300 people crowded the sale room for the 479 lot sale. A further 400 absentee and telephone bids were left on the books by people unable to make the sale.

Among the highlights was the sale of the Burke & Wills breastplate, one of three known to exist and the second to be auctioned by Bonhams & Goodman. This breastplate was eagerly snapped up by the National Museum of Australia for $96,000 including Buyer’s Premium and will be shown alongside its distinguished collections of Burke & Wills relics housed in Canberra. The breastplate has impeccable provenance, being offered directly by the descendants of Constable James de Pury, a policeman whose vast region included the care of the Yandruwandha people of Cooper’s Creek. De Pury bought the breastplate from an elderly and almost blind aborigine who said he had assisted Burke & Wills as a teenager. It was sold together with aboriginal artifacts and photographs taken by de Pury documenting daily life in the Far North during the 1920s.

The vast majority of the sale comprised the deceased estate of the late artist, John Dowie OAM, whose studio housed many fine examples of his paintings, sculptures and maquettes. These sold well with buyers keen to own a treasured item belonging to this much loved and admired artist. Highlights included ‘Pianist, Town Hall’, an oil painting, which sold for $5,040, and his personal library consisting of art poetry, travel, humour and historical subject matter which sold for $2,520.

A 1930 penny also acheived a fantastic result, together with a set of Australian pennies it sold for $18,000.

With 96.5% sold by lot and 100% sold by value, Managing Director, James Bruce considered this auction a successfull and very promising start to the Bonhams & Goodman 2009 auction calendar. “There was a tremendous atmosphere in the room, we have never had as many people in our auction gallery, the interest in this collection was unprecendented,” James said.

The sale made a total of $420,930 against a pre-sale estimate of approximately $390,000-550,000.

Auction info