Cases of birds and animals from the various dominions of the British Empire were part of the stock in trade of many of the best British taxidermists in the late 19th century.
The Piccadilly workshop of Rowland Ward was a likely candidate for the creation of this 20½in (52cm) wide naturalistic tableau that combines a duck-billed platypus, a blue-tongued skink, a humming bird, a snake and a beetle – all species found in Australia.
Found in a near-derelict property, it came for sale at Martel Maides (17.5% buyer’s premium) in St Peter Port, Guernsey, on November 25. The tableau was missing its dome and required extensive cleaning but sold at £4000 against a guide of £300-400.
It was bought by a US collector who also bought another case of New Guinean birds, including a magnificent riflebird, a greater bird of paradise, a magnificent bird of paradise and three other species, at £4800 (estimate £150-200).
For another Rowland Ward Australian tableau, coming up at auction, see this week's previews.