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Lot #19 - Benjamin Duterrau

  • Auction House:
    Deutscher and Hackett
  • Sale Name:
    Two Important Private Collections: Modern / Traditional
  • Sale Date:
    08 Dec 2021 ~ 7pm (AEDT)
  • Lot #:
  • Lot Description:
    Benjamin Duterrau
    (1768 - 1851, British/Australian)
    Self Portrait, 1835
    oil on canvas
    95.5 x 82.5 cm
    signed with intials and dated lower right: B D. 1835
    Related Work/s: Portrait of an Artist (Self Portrait) c.1819, oil on canvas, 77.0 x 64.0 cm, private collection; Self Portrait, 1837, oil on canvas on composition board, 91.5 x 72.0 cm, presented by Mr L Lodge, 1900, AG140, in the collection of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart
  • Provenance:
    Private collection, Hobart (acquired directly from the artist in payment of an account - the first owners were said to be early Hobart bakers); Thence by descent; Ted Braithwaite, Esq; Christie’s, Sydney, 1 October 1974, lot 10; Private collection, Adelaide; Thence by descent; Private collection, Adelaide
  • References:
    Buscombe, E., 'Artists in Early Australia and Their Portraits', Eureka Research, Sydney, 1979, no. 28/1a P., pp. 320.1 (illus.), 321
  • Notes:
    ‘This celebrated picture, called the School of Athens, which is at Oxford University, where I have spent much time in studying it and examining every minute part, was painted by Julio Romano from the original picture in the Vatican at Rome, which was painted by Rafaelle. The more I bring this grand work to my mind, the more it appears to be a subject that should be spoken of in this room, where we consider that the School of Hobart Town [The Mechanics’ Institution] was instituted to disseminate useful knowledge, and in that point of view closely resembles the School of Athens.’;                                                                                 Benjamin Duterrau, Hobart Town, 1849.1;   ; Born into an old Huguenot family as the son of a watchmaker, London-born widower Benjamin Duterrau was one of the steerage passengers on board the ship 'Lang' that arrived safely in the harbour of Hobart Town in the evening of 16 August 1832, having sailed direct from the heart of the British Empire to its furthest outpost.2 The so-called Black War – the conflict between European settlers and the Tasmanian Aboriginal (Palawa) people – had all but ceased by the time of Duterrau’s arrival, the historic conciliation that took place on 31 December 1831 signalling the end of physical hostilities between the colonisers and the island’s indigenous inhabitants.3 Accompanying Duterrau on the long sea voyage were his daughter Miss Sarah Jane and sister-in-law Miss Mary Perigal. Packed in the ship’s hull was a collection of work by this ‘artist of very considerable eminence’ who swiftly established a studio in Hobart Town, setting himself up in business as a portrait painter.4 On 18 October 1832 His Excellency, Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur (1784-1854) and family paid Duterrau the honour of inspecting his collection of paintings in Campbell-street, ‘an occurrence which we have pleasure to commemorate as the commencement of an era, in which the fine arts will we trust be patronised in Van Diemen’s Land’.5 Duterrau soon became a particularly active member and generous patron of the Hobart Town Mechanics’ Institution (established in 1827), fully supporting its high ideals and purpose, even becoming a member of its Committee of Management and, in time, one of its very few life members.6 'A catalogue of the Library of the Van Diemen’s Land Mechanics’ Institution', printed in Hobart Town in 1839, indicates that Duterrau had donated five items to the Institution which included a: ‘Portrait of himself (painted by himself)’.7 Provenance details for the 1835 Duterrau self-portrait published by Christie’s in 1974 relay that the canvas was ‘acquired directly from the artist in payment of an account’, the then owner being of the family said to be the first Hobart bakers.8 Might this 1835 canvas be the self-portrait donated by its maker toward the ‘nucleus of a museum in existence’ within the Hobart Town Mechanics’ Institution?9 It would have exited the collection of the Mechanics’ Institution when the sale of its entire property, comprising ‘many valuable philosophical donations’, went under the auctioneer’s hammer in early January 1872, the Institution being from its inception ‘designed to promote useful and scientific knowledge’. It ceased to function late in 1871 due to ‘inanition’.10 No catalogue of the auction seems to have survived but certainly on offer, apart from the Institution’s valuable Library, was music (printed and manuscript), a magic lantern and slides, geological specimens, a thirty-nine draw cabinet with specimens of shells and dried plants, and: ‘Framed paintings and engravings’.11 On 16 July 1833 Duterrau delivered a lecture ‘on painting, sculpture, and engraving to a very full meeting of the members of the Mechanics’ Institution’.12 It was the first of many lectures that the resident artist presented in the colony. Bernard Smith followed William Moore in pronouncing Duterrau’s July 1833 lecture the first on painting given in Australia.13 Before the year’s end the portraitist had completed a series of ‘remarkably striking portraits’ of some of the Tasmanian Aborigines which earned him approbation, the memorial worth of the important colonial paintings being immediately recognised. 'The Hobart Town Courier' eulogised: ‘Great praise is due to Mr. Duterrau for his thus fixing on canvas which may commemorate and hand down to posterity for hundreds of years to come so close a resemblance in their original appearance and costume a race now all but extinct.’14 Three self-portraits by Duterrau are known today.15 The earliest features Duterrau aged no more than fifty-two for it was exhibited in the summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Art in London in 1819.16 Long-time resident of Hobart, accountant Mr Lorenzo Lodge (1823-1911) – son of a London architect – presented the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) with a different self-portrait by Duterrau in 1900. He and Duterrau never met as Lodge did not arrive in Tasmania until 1854, three or so years after Duterrau’s death in his Bathurst Street house on 11 July 1851, aged eighty-four. The two men shared a strong belief in temperance, Duterrau lecturing at least twice on the topic of total abstinence in Hobart Town, once in 1847 in the Infant School in Murray Street.17 Mary Perigal – Duterrau’s sister-in-law who kept house for Duterrau and his daughter – died in Lodge’s residence in Sandy Bay in May 1871. She bequeathed her household furniture and effects to Lodge.18 It is most likely, therefore, that the TMAG Duterrau self-portrait was once the property of Mary Perigal having passed to her from Duterrau. It is unlikely to represent Duterrau as he appeared in 1837 which is the year painted on the folio prominently displayed to viewers by the gentleman sitter. Duterrau is clearly portrayed as an older man in the initialled and dated 1835 closely related self-portrait. As he arrived in Van Diemen’s Land aged sixty-five, it is reasonable to deduce that the TMAG self-portrait predates the 1835 version. The full date on the TMAG self-portrait, at the bottom right of the folio is: ‘13 Sep 1837’. This was the day on which Duterrau delivered a lecture to the Hobart Town Mechanics’ Institution. It was ‘most respectably attended, both in point of fashion and numbers’. Present in the audience listening to Duterrau expiate ‘on the importance of good taste being encouraged, in the fine arts’, was the cream of the Island’s European gentry, including the Lt-Governor Sir John Franklin (1786 – 1847) and wife Lady Jane (1791 – 1875), Franklin’s Private Secretary Captain Alexander Maconochie (1787 – 1860) and wife Mary, and the young 'aide-de-camp' Henry George Elliot (1817 – 1907). 1837 was the year in which Duterrau advertised having completed a series of paintings representing ‘the occupations and amusements of the Aborigines of Van Diemen’s Land’. In the series was ‘a work of such magnitude as the national picture’.19 Duterrau illustrated the lecture pointing to the recent history of painting and engraving in England.20 He knew his subject well having worked as an engraver in England where he was also known to the Franklins.21 The self-portrait that bears the specific date of an 1837 lecture – evidently so important to Duterrau – measures ‘91.5 x 72 cm’. It has been laid onto Masonite panel; the oil on canvas does not extend beyond the recto surface of the composition board.22 As such the canvas that initially would have curled around a stretcher has been cut. Is it possible that the TMAG self-portrait was larger when first painted? The 1835 self-portrait measures 95.5 x 82.5 cm. By comparison, the TMAG version of the painting is about four centimetres shorter in height and about ten centimetres less in width. When included, it was customary for Duterrau to place the year of his production to the right of his initials, such a year being absent in the TMAG version which, upon a sight inspection of the painting, has the bottom half of the initials missing in the lower right corner. Visible, on the table, at the right edge of both paintings, is the entire spectacle case of the subject. Whilst being on an old re-lined canvas the original canvas of the 1835 self-portrait reaches mostly to the front edge of an old timber stretcher, in some places wrapping a little around it. Considering the age appearance of Duterrau in the 1835 self-portrait we can conclude that it was definitely painted in Tasmania. Given the specific date on the folio of the TMAG’s Duterrau self-portrait it was certainly finalised by the artist in Tasmania noting the important ‘13 Sep 1837’ evening lecture date after the event. Nearly all of the front of the dog-eared, blue-grey folio as held by the sitter – enclosing within loose works on paper – is visible in the 1835 version, the folio being a key element on each of the three self-portraits. In the painting exhibited in 1819 a thick folio is clearly claimed, tucked under the subject’s arm, announcing no title that would point to anything specific regarding its contents, or owner. The TMAG self-portrait folio bears the title: ‘Rafaelle’s / Cartoons’, and, in smaller letters underneath – as a subtitle and perhaps as a final addition like its date – the fainter ‘and School of Athens’. With more balanced spacing and even lettering, prominence is given to the full title on the folio of the 1835 self-portrait: ‘Raffaelle’s Cartoons / and / School of Athens.’ (note Duterrau’s different spellings of ‘Rafaelle’ and ‘Raffaelle’, respectively). 1835 was a tremendously significant year in the colonial career of Duterrau. He delivered four lectures on ‘Sculpture and Painting’ in the 1835 Course of Lectures season of the Hobart Town Mechanics’ Institution.23 In its promotion of Duterrau’s first lecture of 1835 'The Hobart Town Courier' offered: On Tuesday the 2<sup>nd</sup> of June Mr. Duterrau will deliver his first lecture on the Fine Arts, and the advantage of the arts and sciences in general as they tend to our happiness, plan of conduct, and our search of truth. –The school of Athens, explained as it bears a similitude with all institutions established to spread useful knowledge. –The properties of a good picture explained as relates to composition, colouring, &amp;c. particularly drawing as it is connected with perspective and anatomy.24 Three days after the lecture was delivered the same newspaper reported at length how the speaker had enlarged upon ‘the advantages we might derive in this remote corner of the world from cultivating good taste … – the principle of honour and beauty of truth. As a powerful and instructive example he [Duterrau] analysed that splendid picture of Raphael, ‘The School of Athens.’ In pointing out the characteristics of a good picture the lecturer ‘showed the necessity of attending to graceful attitudes in the figures – to grouping and propriety of arrangement or composition’.25 Duterrau’s colonial production – to represent and group people properly – went hand-in-glove with contemporary British principles of taste that were shaped by British views concerning history painting and British theories of moral sentiment, particularly stemming from Scottish Enlightenment thought.26 In his representations of Tasmanian Aborigines he adhered to expressions that were in keeping with the principles of expression as embodied in Raphael’s Cartoons – (full scale designs for tapestries to cover the lower walls of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Palace, Rome, depicting the Acts of the apostles St Peter and St Paul) – specifically to promulgate moral, philosophical and aesthetic ideas within a colonial context.27 His second lecture for the season was delivered on 21 July 1835. Six days earlier ‘AN OUTLINE of a proposed National Picture, in commemoration of the Aborigines of this Island …’ was published; the etching is said to be the first produced in Australia. It included the inscription: ‘Design’d etch’d &amp; publish’d by Bn. Duterrau July 15<sup>th</sup> 1835 Hobart Town’.28 Representing a group of people, the Outline was to form the basis of the first major history painting in Australia: 'The Conciliation', the work dated 1840 in the TMAG being, according to a verso label: ‘A sketch for a national picture / to be 14 feet long by 10 feet high’.29 The first known report about the proposed ‘national picture’ appeared in 'The Hobart Town Courier' in April 1835.30 Six ‘outlines of Aboriginal subjects’, designed and etched by Duterrau, were subsequently published by the artist on 24 August 1835.31 Might Duterrau have produced a folio set of engravings in England after the Raphael Cartoons and/or engraved a print of Raphael’s 'The School of Athens' with its pivotal theme of philosophy?32 He certainly used an image of Raphael’s famous High Renaissance fresco in the Apostolic Palace in Rome to illustrate his 29 June 1849 lecture entitled: ‘The School of Athens, as it assimilates with the Mechanics’ Institution’, the published talk clearly indicating that the speaker intimately knew the oil on canvas copy (after Raphael’s fresco) 'The School of Athens' bequeathed to Oxford University by politician Mr Francis Page (1726-1803). Received by the University in 1804 the Oxford copy was put on display in the Bodleian Library where Duterrau carefully studied it.33 Duterrau also knew the slim publication 'The history of the celebrated painting, in the Picture Gallery, Oxford; called “The School of Athens:” supposed to be painted by Julio Romano' – first published in 1805 – as he incorporated parts of it in his 29 June 1849 lecture. The text of this anonymous pamphlet was appended to editions of the ‘Oxford Guide’ in the 1820s of which there were numerous editions.34 Such was the importance that Duterrau placed upon the Raphael fresco and the Oxford copy of it that he believed if a print of ‘The School of Athens’ could be seen in a conspicuous part of the Mechanics’ Institution in Hobart Town, a ‘beneficial result would accrue’ in the minds of its colonial viewers, the copy being equally efficacious as the original to teach desirable high ideals for the benefit of the colony. Fine art to Duterrau held nothing short of the miracle power to civilise.35 Benjamin Duterrau’s 1835 self-portrait is arguably the most significant self-portrait in Australia’s early colonial art, the gentleman artist presenting an unambiguous declaration of the important visual sources that guided him in the formation of the self, his art making and his hopes for the Hobart Town Mechanics’ Institution. He wanted the humble ‘School’ of learning to be ‘actively instrumental in conveying every noble, useful and enviable attainment that raises the mental character to its highest order of human perfection.’ This was the emigrant artist’s high-minded dream for the entire population of the colony, convict, indigenous people and free settler alike. PAUL PAFFEN
  • Estimate:
    A$100,000 - 150,000
  • Realised Price:

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  • Category:

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