THE JOHN WOLFE ST ALBAN COLLECTION
Theodore Bruce Auctions are very proud to announce the forthcoming sale of the extraordinary John Wolfe St Albans Collection Asian Art, Militaria, Aboriginal and Oceanic Art. This collection was amassed by the late Mr. St Albans, formerly of Golden Grove, Adelaide, over four decades prior to his death in 2012. It is to be sold on an unreserved basis on instructions from the executors.
The collection comprises 665 Lots across a number of fields. The sale starts with a wide selection of early European and Asian weapons, including swords, daggers, spears and shields, many of significant age and displaying exquisite craftsmanship. These are complemented by numerous flint lock, muzzle loading weapons, including a replica of the famous Puckle gun and early brass canons. Following is an extensive collection of Asian art including many significant, museum quality works, particularly from China but also from Tibet, India, Burma and Indonesia. The Collection also includes a large number of works of Aboriginal and Oceanic Art from New Guinea and Vanuatu, as well as a substantial offering of African art. The Collection has many amalgamated Lots that comprise of Asian jewelry, utensils and smaller items. In addition to the art works offered, various rare and curious objects of diverse origin complete one of the most eclectic and fascinating Collections offered in Australia in recent years.
John Wolfe St Albans started his collection in the 1970’s and 1980’s while working as an inventor and opal miner in Andamooka, in the South Australian outback. An extremely rare eight metre, opalised plesiosaur dinosaur, which he discovered in 1983, is on permanent display in the South Australian Museum. With financial success Mr. St Albans pursued his art collecting obsession, organizing multiple buying trips to China before that country’s rapid moderisation. Some of his Chinese collection, valued in excess of a million dollars, was donated to the Golden Dragon Museum, in Bendigo, Victoria. In 2008 the president of the Bendigo Chinese Association called this “the greatest collection the Bendigo Chinese Association has ever received or is likely to receive”.
Highlights of the Collection include Lot 247, a superb cloisonné Fu Dog, or heavenly lion, from the Qing Dynasty era, which is estimated at $30-50,000. It is the twin of the Bendigo Museum’s Fu Dog, one of their great masterworks donated by Mr. St Albans in 2009. Also sharing that distinction are Lots 274 and 275, two pairs of cloisonné Palace Guardians both estimated at $20-30,000, the third set having been donated to the Museum. Another fascinating item is Lot 489 which is a rare replica Puckle gun. This is the first manifestation of the contemporary machine gun, albeit a powder and ball version fired by a primitive flint lock mechanism. Never particularly successful when originally made in 1619 the design is immediately reminiscent of later weapons such as the Gatling gun, but somewhat less malevolently lethal. A great number of the Lots, however, have modest estimates of $100-200, and span all categories: sword; flintlock guns; tribal and exotica. All Lots will be sold unreserved.