By Peter Fish, on 30-Mar-2011

From a record breaking Ray Crooke painting to a plethora of plush sofas there were plenty of hot sellers at Mossgreen’s sale of the contents of the Nettlefold family home in Hobart on Sunday, March 27.

From this record breaking Ray Crooke painting which sold for $115,900 to a plethora of plush sofas there were plenty of hot sellers at Mossgreen’s sale of the contents of the Nettlefold family home in Hobart on Sunday, March 27.

Luckily several descendants of the home’s owners Len and Olga Nettlefold, one-time owers of a flourishing Holden dealership, were on hand to underpin – and in some cases strongly elevate – the prices for some lots.

The large Crooke, “Thursday Island” (Lot 42 ) was one. Dating from 1962 and described by auctioneer Paul Sumner as the best to come on the market, it apparently went to Willi Ren – one of the Nettlefold offspring who contributed the foreward to the auction catalogue. The price was $95,000 on the hammer, or $115,900 including premium.

That compares with the artist’s previous auction record of $74,000 on the hammer at Sotheby’s in Sydney in November last year, according to Australian Art Sales Digest.

Observers said family members also vied for another lot that proved perhaps the biggest surprise of the sale – a Chinese carved, gilt and red lacquer Buddha, lot 294, that brought a total $12,200 against what most had thought a realistic estimate of $100 to $200. The Buddha must have meant a lot to someone who once lived in the big Federation style home in Sandy Bay.

A Hobart builder apparently took away a splendid piece of garden sculpture, a pair of French 19th century cast iron life-size hounds, lot 438, which brought $20,740. Some saw this as a bargain – a similar pair had reportedly sold for around $80,000 at Bonhams & Goodman in Melbourne a couple of years earlier.

A William and Mary burr walnut and feather banded fall-front escritoire or writing desk, lot 90, went for a buoyant total price of $34,160 (estimate $15,000 to $20,000), and an imposing pair of Chinese inlaid lacquer and hardstone cabinets (lot 289) which had featured prominently in generous pre-sale coverage on ABC-TV fetched $23,180 ($20,000 to $30,000).

However other top furniture items in the Nettlefold collection proved mildly disappointing. An exceptional early 19th century French marble topped ormolu sideboard (lot 404) which some attributed to the eminent Paris maker Linke, failed to make its $20,000 to $30,000 estimate, fetching $14,640. And an English Regency metamorphic library chair/steps (Lot 88 ) brought  just $9150, apparently from a UK buyer who may also have got  a bargain. A lacquer and gilt bronze secretaire a abbatant or writing desk circa 1800 (lot 316), also fell a little short of hopes at $13,420 – apparently finding a buyer in the Nettlefold family.  

An early Australian cedar library bookcase circa 1830s (lot 206) failed to sell on a $20,000 to $40,000 estimate, though a cedar serving table circa 1850 (lot 208) brought $2928.  

Among the art several other Crookes also did well, with “Early Morning Cairns” (Lot 262 ) fetching $97,600 and “Mornington Island Mission Interior” (261) $34,160. Among the “marines”, Haughton Forrest’s “Sailing Ships in an Estuary” (lot132) surprised on the high side with $39,040, while Thomas Luny’s “Ship Cato Passing Stockton” (Lot 85 ) undershot the estimate with $10,980. Judy Cassab’s “Bridge in Monet’s Garden” (Lot 348 ) brought $4880.

One failure was an untitled Rupert Bunny oil of three females (Lot 131 ) which had hung behind a door in the home and which some who saw it said did not “feel right”. Bunny’s “Vineyard South of France” (259) brought $17,080.

Best of a large assortment of bronzes was a Colinet figure of a dancer on marble stand (lot 104) at $7320, while an English silver salver with an inscription from botanist Joseph Banks to a lawyer friend (219) brought $12,200.

As for the plush sofas, typical was lot 326, a pink upholstered two-seater which brought a cool $610. Any number of other sofas and comfy chairs brought upwards of $200 apiece. It seems the frocked up Hobart audience of 200 or so attending the sale put a high value on a decent seat ?? in Sydney you can’t get the Salvos or St Vinnies to take your old sofa away.

Glassware and household mugs and jugs also sold briskly.

Mossgreen reported the sale had sold 180 per cent by value and 98 per cent by lot – thus continuing the firm’s fine record with single-owner collections.

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About The Author

Peter Fish has been writing on art and collectables for 30 years in an array of publications. With extensive experience in Australia and South-Eat Asia, he was until 2008 a senior business journalist and arts columnist with the Sydney Morning Herald.