An important 1847c daguerreotype of two Australian aborigine women (not men as the English seller mistakenly identified the pair) sold for $18,664 earlier this week on eBay. The item was fought over by primarily three parties, including agents for two Australian museums (the underbidder was apparently an Australian collector of Australian material). The National Gallery of Victoria was the ultimate winner in this battle.
The work has been identified as being taken by Douglas Kilburn, Victoria's first commercial photographer. Dr. Isobel Crombie, curator of photography for the National Gallery of Victoria told me by email, "Over the years I have bought two other daguerreotypes from this series, which are in fact the first extant portraits of Indigenous people taken in this country. They are of immense aesthetic and cultural importance to us here in Australia, so I am over the moon that we were successful...Kilburn is my 'holy grail' so I have to say that I would have pulled out all stops to get it."
This is the third related aborigine piece by Kilburn to become a part of the museum's collection.
This piece was clearly related to a pair of Kilburn aborigine's sold at Sotheby's London in May 1999. One sold to the National Gallery of Victoria and the other, which was a trio of women, which included two of the women in this latest daguerreotype, sold to collector Michael Wilson.