Catalogue of the auction sale of the 'Unique Collection of Bric-a-Brac, Bronzes, Objets d'Art, formed by the late John Twycross, Esq.', prepared by the Melbounrian auctioneer companies of Fraser & Co., in conjunction with Gemmell, Tuckett & Co., to be held at their Art Gallery, 47 Queen Street, Melbourne, on Thursday, 24 October 1889.

John Twycross migrated to Australia, along with his brother and sister, aboard the 'Harbinger', arriving two days before Christmas in 1853, and established himself as a merchant, a continuation of the family business 'James Twycross & Sons', based in Wokingham, England. Although the English branch of the business concentrated primarily on wool brokering and tanning, in Melbourne John and his brother James dealt as general merchants until James' return to England in the early 1860s, at which point John turned his attention back to the wool and tanning industries.

From the late 1860s onwards, John Twycross built up an extensive art collection of paintings and decorative art, which was greatly enlarged by his purchases at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. He loaned 17 paintings to the 1869 exhibition of Works of Art, Ornamental and Decorative Art held at the Public Library, and shortly thereafter had a large, 13-roomed house built on Glenhuntly road, Elsternwick, that included a two-storied tower to house his growing collection. He purchased at least 16 paintings from the 1880 Exhibition, including eight from the French Court, as well as numerous examples of procelain, bronze and other objets d'art. He loaned works from his own collection to the Colonial and Indian Exhibition held in London in 1886, and at the 1888 Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition. He died in May 1889, and the majority of his collection of paintings and decorative arts were sold by Fraser & Co in a two-day sale across 23-24 October 1889.

The family withheld a large number of items from sale, and those that were passed in at auction were returned to the family, who kept them until the Twycross collection was gifted to Museum Victoria in 2009.

Physical Description

A ten-page catalogue on buff paper, titled 'Catalogue of the Unique Collection of Bric-A-Brac, Bronzes, Objets d'Art, formed by the late John Twycross, Esq.,', printed by Walker, May and Co., printers, of 9 Mackillop-street, Melbourne. The catalogue records 265 lots for sale, many of them including multiple items per lots.


This catalogue, and the related catalogue of the sale of paintings and statuary the previous day, provides an extensive insight into the breadth John Twycross' collection at the time of his death in 1889. Copies of the two catalogues are rare and do not appear to be held in any of the collections of other national public institutions, with the only other known copy being held privately. Numerous items referred to in the catalogue can be identified as having been exhibited at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, from where Twycross purchased them, thereby providing an insight into his aesthetic tastes as a collector.

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