Celebrating Bendigo Art Gallery's most curious pieces

QUIRKY: Lustre pairs, 1880–90, decorative glass. Collection Bendigo Art Gallery. Bequest of Mr and Mrs HS Seymour 1969.  Photo: IAN HILL

QUIRKY: Lustre pairs, 1880–90, decorative glass. Collection Bendigo Art Gallery. Bequest of Mr and Mrs HS Seymour 1969. Photo: IAN HILL

Collective Vision: 130 years celebrates over a century of collecting at Bendigo Art Gallery. Historic, contemporary, curious, significant and much-loved favorites from the gallery’s renowned permanent collection are presented in a dynamic thematic display.

Some of the most quirky objects on display are a collection of 19th century lustres (sometimes known as lustre vases). These are delicate, ornately embellished glass vessels with drops of glass or crystal attached to a central cylinder flaring out at the top.

At the height of the Victorian era in the late 1880s, lustres were commonly displayed in pairs on a parlour mantelpiece along with porcelain Staffordshire spaniels and ornamental clocks or on the sideboard of a dining room. Lustre’s are unique and distinct to the very particular aesthetic of this time.

In 1969, Stanley and Nellie Seymour gifted a spectacular collection of lustres to Bendigo Art Gallery, along with a large collection of porcelain tea cup and saucer sets.

Another unique item in the gallery’s collection, distinct to its time, is an early 19th century silver chatelaine on display in the same gallery space as the lustres. A chatelaine is a decorative belt hook with a series of chains attached to hold keys and other practical things needed for the daily operation of a household.

Typically worn by the most senior woman of the house, the chatelaine was a practical status symbol. Containing keys to all of the locked areas of the house, the wearer had power over who had access to what.

The gallery’s elegant chatelaine was gifted by Arthur and Jean Newson, local collectors and dedicated supporters of the gallery, who from 1977 donated close to 200 items of furniture, glassware, porcelain, and silverware.

Also on display in the same gallery space is a curious set of 19th century stereographs acquired in 2009 through the RHS Abbott Bequest Fund. 

A stereograph is a pair of almost identical photographs that can be seen through a viewing device to produce the illusion of a single, three-dimensional image.

Stereographic photography can be traced back to the earliest days of photography. In the mid-1900s, collecting stereographs became a popular pursuit. Many people purchased their own stereo viewers as a form of family entertainment. John H. Jones published Jones’s Photographs of Australian Sceneries in 1862. This series of 120 stereographs, some of which are on display, reveal an extraordinary journey around the burgeoning colony of Victoria - some capturing the route from Melbourne to Bendigo.