Antiques & Art – AA&ADA Melbourne Fair, At Home at Labassa

Antique Commode
Antique Commode

An 18th century Louis XV and Louis XVI Transistional commode, made of ormolu mounted mahogany, rosewood and kingswood by Etienne Avril, c1770, courtesy Anton Venoir Interiors

A vast number of people from very different backgrounds and all walks of life, are interested in and collect antiques and art. It is impossible to put them into a category in terms of promotion, as the demographic is broad ranging.

True antique and art collectors encompass those who may only have a modest budget in comparative terms, to those who may have millions of dollars to spend annually. In England during my lifetime, a purist would define the true antique period as prior to 1830, when the making of handcrafted wares ceased to be with the advent of the industrial revolution.

Many of the goods on offer these days are the items people are collecting to live with in their own homes.

A William Moorcroft Florianware twin handled bowl, Dimensions: H: 13cm, W: 17cm, courtesy Walter & Co

A William Moorcroft Florianware twin handled bowl, Dimensions: H: 13cm, W: 17cm, courtesy Walter & Co

The Australian Antique and Art Dealers Association (AA&ADA) has forged an alliance with the National Trust of Victoria to hold their autumn fair in an ‘at home’ atmosphere during a Melbourne Autumn, 2017 – May 4 – 7, 2017.

Labassa at North Caulfield in Melbourne is a wondrous pile, the product of Victoria’s economic boom mainly due to the discovery of gold during the nineteenth century. Its visual repertoire is full of ‘dash’ and it is an outstanding result of early Australian endeavour in a ‘revival’ style encompassing many stylistic ideas from the Renaissance to Rococo, from Neoclassicism to the dawn of a new age.

Labassa Good

Labassa, North Caulfield, Melbourne, a National Trust of Victoria property photo Carolyn McDowall

Sitting originally on 12 acres or 5 hectares of land in 1890, Labassa’s estate is an illustrative example of the social and cultural development that began when the countryside gained access to the city via the railway line in 1879.

In its glory days Labassa’s opulent interiors were much admired, and while much of its essence and fabric remains, its original furniture and furnishings did not survive, making it a perfect blank canvas for a display of antiques and art.

Labassa Living Room

Labassa Living Room, North Caulfield, Melbourne, a National Trust of Victoria property photo Carolyn McDowall

Labassa Column

Detail Living room column at National Trust property Labassa, North Caulfield, Melbourne

Today it is favourite location for filming TV shows, for holding wedding ceremonies and both professional and private glamour photo shoots.

The ABC’s most popular woman detective Phryne Fisher has been in residence many times, she and Jack dancing the light fantastic and enjoying the faded ambiance.

Labassa’s design style abounds in references to ancient Greece and Rome, while being infused with ornamentation from palazzo’s and villas in the Veneto in the north of Italy, to the chateaux of the Loire in France.

You can also add in just a dash of glorious English country treasure houses and nationalism, which was infused at a time when Australia was busily federating for the future.

Entrance Labassa 2

Entrance, Labassa, North Caulfield, Melbourne, a National Trust of Victoria property photo Carolyn McDowall

The National Trust is established in each state of Australia as an independent non-government group of organisations all championing and conserving Australia’s historic heritage. They are supported by a large volunteer community base as well as sponsorship, donations, memberships and income from fundraiser events.

Early Victorian Mahogany Sarcophagus Shape Cellaret c. 1840 courtesy Valentine's Antique Gallery, Bendigo, Victoria

Early Victorian Mahogany Sarcophagus Shape Cellaret c. 1840 courtesy Valentine’s Antique Gallery, Bendigo, Victoria

Becoming an antique collector can seem to be fraught with danger for the inexperienced. However, if you make and follow a few rules you can protect your interests when purchasing and enjoy a hobby that will become a richly rewarding part of your life.

Pair of JugsSurrounding ourselves with items of aesthetic or of what we perceive as pleasing items fulfills a deep emotional need within us all. You can enjoy each acquisition and it is also a pleasure for your friends and relatives who, when they arrive to visit, discover something new, of great interest and beauty.

Antique Box

9th Century English Oak Glove Box, with decorative brass banding. 1870 courtesy Valentine’s Antique Gallery Bendigo, Victoria

The key is to make informed buying decisions. One way to become informed is to read widely and to engage by going out and viewing auctions and visiting AA&ADA dealer’s establishments, so that you can keep abreast of what is in and out of fashion.

Meissen Kangaroo

Meissen Kangaroo 1910, courtesy Alan Landis Antiques

Having said that fashion should never be your concern when buying an antique or any great work of art. It has to be about so much more, with as your central focus a passionate pursuit of the very best example of what it is you love.

1735 George II Mahogany Chair, courtesy Roy's Antiques Pty Ltd

1735 George II Mahogany Chair, courtesy Roy’s Antiques Pty Ltd

Completely fake antiques are thankfully relatively few although I am sure they are on the rise with so much competition for rare items. You will find some that are not quite genuine, either direct copies or adaptations; sometimes you may even find dubious restorations or ‘marriages’ of commercial convenience that need to be identified.

A pair of Royal Worcester Eastern Water Carrier figurines dated 1884, modelled by James Hadley, courtesy Abbott's Antiques (NSW)

A pair of Royal Worcester Eastern Water Carrier figurines dated 1884, modelled by James Hadley, courtesy Abbott’s Antiques (NSW)

If you establish a good working relationship with a qualified antique dealer who is a member of the professional association, you will find they have a sound knowledge and understanding of each period in decorative art history and should be willing to share their knowledge with you.

God-of-Happiness-CroppedThe AA&ADA has a code of ethics for its members and an established standard for dealing and conduct. You can request a booklet about the association at any member dealer’s store. Be wary of those who haven’t undergone vetting to join.

By purchasing through AA&ADA members you gain some form of protection. However I believe that is always wise to establish a budget for collecting, one that allows you to work with a dealer giving them the boundaries by which he/she must work.

If you are attending the fair and wish to make a purchase be sure to receive documentation for your purchases – this is extremely important, especially later on when you may wish to resell or send goods to auction. Keep them filed away, but at hand.

Always ask the dealer to provide an invoice that will show at the very least…

… a full and detailed description of the goods, the condition and any restoration, the circa date (within ten years), the details of the provenance if known and the price and date of purchase.

Labassa A

Looking up the facade, Labassa at North Caulfield, Melbourne, a National Trust of Victoria property, photo Carolyn McDowall

When you visit Labassa, which is a house for all seasons, do make sure you also enjoy the house. It represents the most striking achievement of domestic architecture in Melbourne by renowned Australian architect John Bernard Koch (1845-1928) who was renowned for his progressive attitudes, ideals, imagination and distinctive work.

Labassa staircase & stained glassThe house gives the impression its original owner was a man of substance and so if you wish to be a collector of substance arm yourself with knowledge, open your mind to expand it and enjoy the hunt for that special piece that may have eluded you.

Purchasing antiques makes better sense than ever before. Recycling is the way of the future.

Why would anyone want to throw away goods made of quality materials with superb aesthetic design from any era?

Antiques work well in contemporary interiors.

But What is An Antique?

… you may also wish to watch my Video.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017

AA&ADA Melbourne Fair

May 4 – 7, 2017


2 Manor Grove, Caulfield North VIC 3161



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