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Object

Result Image
Object Type
Fountain
Creation Place & Date
England, circa 1835-1840
Maker & Role
Austin and Seeley (active 1820-circa 1872), Attributed Artist/Maker
Measurement
H: 153 x W: 153 x D: 153cm
Collection
Elizabeth Bay House
Museum No
EB79/175
Description
A composition stone fountain on modern concrete octagonal base with iron water pipe at centre of the bowl, lined in c2000 with a rubber membrane. The bowl of the fountain is based on the lotus flower, possibly inspired by Indian Mughal originals, although given a Greek Revival interpretation. The base of the plinth features stylised acanthus leaves. The bowl was cast in five sections, which have been cemented together. The style and quality of the composition stone fountain, which has weathered around the bowl to expose large white pieces of aggregate, are typical of London maker, Felix Austin (his company was later to become Austin and Seeley). This fountain is one of the earliest known in Australia and appeared in the grounds of Elizabeth Bay House in Sydney in c1835. According to J.C. Loudon in 'The Gardener's Magazine' for 1833, "the manufacture of artificial stone had contributed to the revival of this taste [in fountains], by the facilities which it affords of forming elegantly shaped basins, and different forms of drooping or natural fountains." In addition, "with the artificial stone of Austin… which is as durable as the hardest marble… there is now no difficulty in constructing the most beautiful garden fountains at a trifling cost, in the grounds of every villa."

This fountain, now in the grounds of Elizabeth Bay House, was part of the extensive Picturesque terraced garden developed at Elizabeth Bay, Sydney by Alexander Macleay from 1826 onwards. Its manufacture complements the composition stone ornaments on the facade of Elizabeth Bay House (egg & dart mouldings and rows of anthemia) where construction had commenced in 1835. The fountain was originally located to the east of its present location in a circular 'bowl' on an axis with the breakfast room bay. Water cascaded over the lotus tips though the jet was curtailed according to the fountain's current setting. Following the final subdivision of the estate in 1927, the fountain was removed to a garden in Edgecliff by Arthur Wigram Allen (the main shareholder in the company which owned the house). In the late 1970s, the fountain was donated back to Elizabeth Bay House by a descendent of the Allen family.
Provenance Place
Elizabeth Bay House/Elizabeth Bay/Sydney/NSW/Australia
Elizabeth Bay House/Elizabeth Bay/Sydney/NSW/Australia
Maker Biography
The sculptor Felix Austin began manufacturing artificial stone goods from his London base in the mid to late 1820s. In the 1830s, Austin's ware, which included garden and architectural ornament, was frequently endorsed by J.C. Loudon and illustrated in journals like 'The Garden Magazine' and 'The Architectural Magazine and Journal'. Austin was joined in business by John Seeley, also a sculptor, around 1840 after which the company was known as Austin and Seeley. Amongst its most famous commissions was the supply of a range of ornament to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight from c1844 for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. In 1843, the company advertised in 'The Builder' that their present stock consisted of: "capitals and fluted columns; trusses, brackets, and modillions; the Royal Arms and Prince of Wales Feathers; centre ornaments for entablatures and bas-relievos; balustrading and coping…; rustic and rough stone facing, and pier ornaments, such as pine-apples, &c; Gothic work in great variety including fonts, communion tables, and screens; tazzas and vases, to the extent of nearly one hundred models; flower boxes, and garden-border edging; fountains; monumental urns; figures-statues from the antique as well as some chaste subjects of modern design, animals, birds, &c; chimneys and chimney-pots." Austin and Seeley's artificial stone was considered especially suitable for fountains: the company’s 'Specimen Book' [catalogue] of 1844, states that its artificial stone "is of a light tint, requires no painting or colouring, will not sustain injury from the severest winter, and being impervious to wet, is particularly applicable to all kinds of Water-works." According to an 1868 account by architect Charles Barry, Austin and Seeley's stone was, in fact, made from Portland cement, broken stone, pounded tile, and coarse sand. And the journal 'The Builder' (1843) stated that it was produced "without... the application of heat" and so differs from many other garden ornament manufacturers of the period like Coade stone and Blashfield that produced fired, clay-based artificial stone or terracotta. Austin died in 1850 but the business was continued by Seeley until at least 1872.
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