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Leonard Joel to offer the collection of Australian media tycoon James Fairfax
A superbly carved Chinese jade figure of a mythical horse, Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Estimate: AU$40,000-60,000.

SYDNEY.- Leonard Joel will present The Decorative Arts Collection of The Late James O. Fairfax, featuring superb Asian works of art and textiles, European furniture, porcelain, silver and photography - the collection reflects the mind and eye of a distinguished collector with an unpretentious, yet grand and meticulous collecting methodology.

The auction will take place in two parts at The National Art School, Sydney on Thursday 31 and Friday 1 September 2017.

A former director of the media and publishing empire founded by his grandfather, John Fairfax in 1841, James Fairfax was also a passionate collector, philanthropist and supporter of the arts.

He travelled extensively – for business, and between his residences in the U.K. and Australia – often stopping for extended periods in Asia and it was his travels, as much as his family’s publishing business, that influenced and informed his collection.

Leading the auction is an exquisitely carved Chinese Jade Mythical Horse, Qing Dynasty. According to the Liji (Book of Rites), it was the vision of this mythical creature, part horse, part dragon, and the patterns of the scales on its back that inspired the legendary Chinese ruler Fuxi to create the eight trigrams, which led to the invention of the written word. It seems fitting therefore that this beautiful piece and what it represents is the highlight of the collection belonging to James Fairfax.

Elsewhere, a fine Louis XVI Tulipwood Bureau which once belonged to the English photographer, writer and painter, Sir Cecil Beaton CBE offers another insight into the man behind this extraordinary collection.

Other interesting highlights include a novelty set of silver kangaroo salts by John Samuel Hunt, for Hunt & Roskell, 1856, a particularly fine example of their kind, like so many of the pieces within this collection.

A tobacco jar depicting a painted caricature reading The Sydney Morning Herald was, according to Fairfax family legend, modelled on James’ grandfather and founder of Fairfax media, John Fairfax. The jar was made by German company Conta & Boehme, in the late 19th century.

The Asian section of the auction also features several magnificent imperial Chinese robes, including a rare Empress’ Dragon Robe, c. 1820. Elaborately embroidered with the finest silk and couched gold-wrapped thread, the robe depicts five-clawed dragons clasping the flaming pearl of wisdom and longevity, believed to provide the wearer with eternal power.

Other highlights include several museum quality Japanese works of art, with a particularly impressive selection of lacquer furniture and inro.

Renowned for his philanthropic nature, James Fairfax made numerous generous gifts to art galleries and museums and was a regular benefactor to many organisations and charities in his lifetime.

It was James Fairfax’s intention that his collection be sold at auction to benefit his Foundation and the various charities that it supports, including The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, The Children’s Medical Research Foundation and WWF.

This auction is preceded by an auction of Important Australian Works of Art From The Estate of the late James O. Fairfax Collection by Deutscher & Hackett in Sydney on Wednesday 30 August.

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