ESSAY: My Collection favourite: CA Brown's Inkwell 1874
Artlines invites QAGOMA Foundation members to share their thoughts on their favourite works in the Collection. Here, Timothy Roberts explores an extraordinary presentation piece produced by one of Queensland's most skilled late-nineteenth-century silversmiths.
Australia’s colonial period was marked by an exuberant exploration of the Australian landscape, both physically and artistically. The artworks and ornamental delicacies that emerged from this time reflect the talent of the craftspeople and highlight the quality of locally available materials. Queensland artists such as silversmith Augustus Kosvitz and cabinetmaker Joshua Ebenston fashioned one-of-a-kind pieces for wealthy pastoralists and successful business people, while firms such as Flavelle Brothers supplied a mix of locally fashioned articles and imported wares to cater to Queensland’s discerning clientele.
When Charles Allen Brown arrived in Brisbane in 1870, he had just completed a seven-year apprenticeship under Sydney-based Danish silversmith Christian Ludwig Qwist. Over the next 38 years, Brown created some of the finest metalwork seen in Queensland. These ranged from the impressive chain that is still worn by the Lord Mayors of Brisbane to an unusual ornamental silver and vermeil model of a pile-driver that was presented to Lady Musgrave, the Governor’s wife, on the commencement of building the South Brisbane Wharves in 1884.1
Brown’s inkwell, made in 1874, is the earliest surviving example of his work in a public collection. It was commissioned by the Hiram Masonic Lodge (No. 286 IC) and presented to Past Master Edwin Young for his indefatigable service to that lodge. The inkwell prominently displays a truncated emu egg among two distinctly Australian emblems fashioned from silver: a tree fern that supports the egg and a figurine of an emu that surmounts the ink bladder. A plaque on the inkwell’s turned wood pedestal is engraved with the details of the presentation.
Author: Timothy Roberts, foundation member.
Source: Artlines 4-2014, pp.43.
1 Brisbane Courier, Tuesday 4 November 1884, p.5. The location of this object is currently unknown.