By Charlotte Stanes, on 26-Apr-2017

An extravagant ivory conductor’s baton, once belonging to the great French composer Claude Debussy, will go under the auction hammer on 30 April 2017 at Aingers sale of 'The Estate Of A Gentleman together with the Richard Divall AO OBE Collection', with expectations of reaching between $10,000-20,000.

The baton (lot 329) is being sold as part of the estate of Richard Divall AO OBE, a celebrated conductor, composer and scholar who passed away in January this year.   He was given the baton by an old student and great friend of Debussy, whom Divall befriended while studying in Paris in his youth.   

An extravagant ivory conductor’s baton, once belonging to the great French composer Claude Debussy, will go under the auction hammer on 30 April 2017 at Ainger's sale of 'The Estate Of A Gentleman together with the Richard Divall AO OBE Collection', with expectations of reaching between $10,000-20,000. Also included in the sale is an important early Colonial Australian cedar table (above), inlaid with exotic Australian woods, and carrying an estimate of $14,000-18,000.

An extravagant ivory conductor’s baton, once belonging to the great French composer Claude Debussy, will go under the auction hammer on 30 April 2017 at Ainger's sale of 'The Estate Of A Gentleman together with the Richard Divall AO OBE Collection', with expectations of reaching between $10,000-20,000. Also included in the sale is an important early Colonial Australian cedar table (above), inlaid with exotic Australian woods, and carrying an estimate of $14,000-18,000.

Divall went on to become the Music Producer at the ABC, Music Director of the Victoria State Opera and the Principal Resident Conductor of Opera Australia, conducting many concerts, ballets and 151 operas throughout his long and distinguished career.

While conductor’s batons come in an extraordinary range of lengths, it appears Debussy was partial to a rather long version - at 58cm the baton is impressive in comparison to batons used today. 

Aingers specialists state that batons of this kind are scarce and highly prized but with the added Debussy provenance there is no telling what this piece may reach.   Two batons, once owned by one of his greatest influences, Richard Wagner, are currently listed for purchase through Schubertiade in Massachusetts USA for $40,000 (USD) – which would give some indication of value for such rare and unusual collectables.

How many great musical scores have been brought to life by this very stick?  Perhaps we will never know but there are reports of it being used enthusiastically by Divall to demonstrate conducting techniques to the amusement of dinner guests from time to time.

The Divall collection also includes excellent pieces of art, furniture, silver and pewter-ware as well as his own baby grand piano.

Another private collection within the same auction, simply titled ‘The Estate of a Gentleman’, contains a wide-reaching array of desirable items ranging from Colonial Australian, Chinese and European furniture, surrealist artworks, and an impressive collection of clocks and watches.

An important early Colonial Australian cedar table (Lot 209 ) is among the highlights of this section.  Beautifully inlaid with exotic Australian woods, the table was made circa 1840 and carries an estimate of $14,000-18,000. 

Many further pieces of the family’s 19th century Australian furniture are also featured.

Further into the general sale is a superb copy of Caravaggio’s ‘The Lute Player’ (lot 142), reportedly relined and stretched in the 19th century.  While the original Caravaggio painting remains in the Hermitage in St Petersberg, another known copy of the subject sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2010 for $100,000 (USD).  This painting is thought to predate the Sotheby’s example and is only expected to set you back $20,000-30,000.

Sale Referenced: The Estate Of A Gentleman together with the Richard Divall AO OBE Collection, E. J. Ainger Pty. Ltd., Melbourne, 30/04/2017

About The Author

Charlotte Stanes has worked the Australian auction industry from the ground up, starting in 1998 as an auction assistant at Christie’s before moving into marketing management at Bonhams & Goodman, Sotheby’s Australia and most recently at Mossgreen. Charlotte is now a marketing consultant and writer, based in Melbourne.