Monday - 22 December 2014

Cradling Queen Victoria’s daughter

16 May 2014Written by Ivan Macquisten

Mossgreen will be offering one of the most talked about items of the year at their forthcoming sale in Melbourne. The auction will feature this elaborately carved and inlaid cradle made for Princess Helena, Queen Victoria’s fifth child.

Appropriately located in the state of Victoria, the sale will take place on June 3.

The cradle was discovered at auction four years ago and later research showed it to be the work of royal master cabinetmaker Johann Martin Levien, who used New Zealand wood Totara Knot (incorrectly catalogued at the time as 'burr walnut') to carve it in the renaissance style.

It also features several engraved ivory panels and is inlaid with ebony, walnut, maple and other fine timbers.

As the auctioneers explain, Levien is credited with having put New Zealand timbers on the map - visiting the colony as early as 1841 searching for woods to ship back to London.

Fewer than half a dozen Levien pieces are known to exist today, although much of his work has been documented.

It is not clear how this piece re-emerged four years ago, but it is thought to have been included in a dispersal of contents of the royal residences around 1910.

The estimate is Aus$250,000-300,000.

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