15 June 2019

One house museum

House museums are lovely contained things and often oddly personalised being usually usually a collection of one person. Many are just a house with furniture but some are intriguing collections. John Soane's in London is famed as this. Closer to home, The David Roche Foundation in North Adelaide deserves to be. It was collected over many years by David. He came from a wealthy family, some of whom had started collecting earlier. He went to Geelong Grammar and was a famed dog breeder and judge. He'd worked although I have the feeling these were other interests: a classy menswear outlet and a time as aide to the SA governor. He'd met royalty and collected from the great auction rooms (Sotherby's and the like) and had agents sent to bid for him. He collected wisely and built his collection, mainly from C17th or thereabouts, so his Roman statues were copies of that era. He finally created and funded his foundation to maintain his excellent collection. It's been open to the public for 3 years-or-so. So what is it? Statues, porcelain, paintings, various oddities; works of significant previous ownership, like Catherine the Great, Princess who-ever. His old house is the venue, along with an attached museum rooms for some particularly special items or changing displays. Any house museum is reasonably sized, so not too tiresome. We were led through by a guide and offsider: obviously essential for security. The works are just there: close, no ropes. I was wary of knocking china off pedestals. Art pervades the house: bedrooms, kitchens, various dens, even the bathroom. The toilet has a sign saying not for use. The spaces are exhilarating and overwhelming. There are too many horses and dogs at one stage, but those were his interests. The Russian items were amazing, not least one painting that hung in the Hermitage and its space is still left blank (he has it legally). Catherine the Great's bottom likely sat in a few of the chairs. He certainly used some of the walking sticks in later years. And one of my favourite porcelains, The Music Lesson / Chelsea Porcelain Manufactory (Soft-paste porcelain by Joseph Willems from engravings by François Boucher), is held (also held by the Met [NYC] and NGV [Melbourne]). A huge pleasure.

The David Roche Foundation is a house museum in Melbourne Street, North Adelaide.

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