Ben is an assistant curator currently researching the collections of wealthy Melbourne wool merchant and art collector, John Twycross, for an upcoming book and online exhibition. On the weekends, he likes to wander through grand gardens and restore his 1920s State Savings Bank bungalow home.
Returning to Melbourne following an impromptu drive up Mount Macedon, I stopped at Forest Glade, one of the mountain's well-known private gardens that is open to the public. Barely had I gone a few steps through the garden's cast iron gates when I recognised a very familiar sculptural group. I rushed forward and had my suspicions confirmed.
Alfred Jacquemart’s Huntsman and Dogs, cast by Val d’Osne c.1879, in the Forest Glade private gardens on Mount Macedon. The cast was included in the company’s exhibits at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition.
Image: B. Thomas
Source: B. Thomas
Huntsman and Dogs, also known as Hunter and Hounds or by its French title, Le chaussuer et les chiens, was originally produced by the noted French sculptor, Henri Alfred Marie Jacquemart (1824-96), often known as Alfred Jacquemart, famed for his realistic representations of animal figures. He studied painting and sculpture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and was a regular exhibitor at the Paris Salon from 1847. His reputation as one of France's leading monumental sculptors was recognised in 1870 when he was awarded the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, the country's highest decoration.
Among his many monumental works, Jacquemart also produced a number of sculptures for commercial production, which were cast by the French foundries of Val d'Osne in 'imitation bronze'; a technique of casting in iron that was then coated with a thin surface of copper through electrolysis. Over time, the aging copper developed a green patina giving the appearance of a genuine bronze casting.
Detail of the base of Huntsman and Dogs.
Image: B. Thomas
Source: B. Thomas
Val d'Osne exhibited Huntsman and Dogs at the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition and the following year at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition where it was mounted on a stone plinth at the front of the eastern forecourt to the Exhibition Buildings, at the edge of Nicholson Street. Val d'Osne was awarded a silver First Order of Merit for their castings at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition.
Val d’Osne’s display of decorative castings in the eastern forecourt of the Exhibition Buildings during the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, with Jacquemart’s Huntsman and Dogs in the foreground of the Nicholson Street entrance.
Source: Museum Victoria
One cast of Huntsman and Dogs was purchased by the New South Wales government at the conclusion of the Melbourne Exhibition in 1881 for £180; almost $13,000 in today's terms. It was mounted in the gardens surrounding Sydney's exhibition building, the Garden Palace, but was damaged when the Palace burnt down in 1882. It was restored in September 2001 and is now situated in Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens.
The Huntsman and Dogs in the Forest Glade gardens apparently remained installed at the Exhibition Building, but – much like its Sydney counterpart – was badly damaged when the Aquarium situated in the building’s eastern annexe was destroyed in a fire in 1953. Forest Glade’s present owners recount that the sculpture languished for a time at the back of a nursery, until being bought from a Richmond-based art auctioneer after the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires. It now finds a fitting home, nestled amongst its garden bed of maples, greeting visitors to these wonderful gardens.