Live Auction

Sun 9th May 2021

Time: 11:00am

You’re about to meet the late Joe Greenberg. That may seem like a contradiction or a bit insensitive: how can you meet someone who is no longer with us, let alone someone who passed away 14 years ago? Not an unreasonable response, I agree; but perhaps I can explain what I mean.

It was the recent passing of Roni (Veronica), Joe’s wife, that led to our being invited into the Greenberg home, high on a cliff in beautiful Mt. Martha, and our first introduction to these fascinating people. Shortly afterwards, having received  the request that we assist the estate with the sale of the contents of the home, we returned– several times – and started to build our relationships with Joe and Roni. It appears that very little had changed in the home since Joe’s passing, and that meant that we could wander from room to room, observing what pictures had been hung on the walls, which pieces had pride of place, how the books were displayed and collected, where the statues lived, what was in storage under the house, and even what was a work-in-progress.

Joe had been a graphic artist, writer, cartoonist, painter, collector, lecturer, raconteur and student of all forms of artistic expression. Roni had been his constant companion, the love of his life and his muse. They counted many well-known artists amongst their friends and enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Ray Crooke and his family from the time that the two young artists had first met as students at Swinburne Tech in the early 1940s.

The collection they assembled is full of the pictures, sculptures, artefacts and curiosities that fascinated Joe, in particular. One gets a strong sense of wonder, curiosity, striving to understand, which seems to have informed the process of filling every available corner of the house. Although born into a Jewish family, Joe’s fascination with all aspects of religious artistic expression, extended to the cultic figurines of various African and other tribal traditions, the many faces of Christ, the Madonna and the Saints, Hindu paintings and manuscripts and much more. Not confining himself to the visual arts, Joe also immersed himself in the music, the architecture and the philosophy of these traditions. He explored these themes in many of his own paintings, all of which can be seen as part of this life-long engagement with the divine or the way mankind has expressed its’ relationship with the godly.

It seems that Joe was never without a pen, paper and the need to record: a walk on the beach resulted in some fabulous displays of seaweed “art” (see Lots 266 and 268) or the collection of flotsam-and-jetsam and other discarded objects, which became sculptures, found dotted around the gardens (see Lots 493 and 494). A trip to North Queensland would result in a day-by-day visual diary extensively supported by Joe’s recounting of events (see Lot 535), anecdotes or memories of things that had happened during the journey. The years Joe and Roni spent living and working overseas are wonderfully chronicled, illustrated and preserved in Joe’s very readable and entertaining word and pen pictures that form his autobiography (see Lot 534).

We are very lucky to have had the benefit of the guidance and knowledge of two wonderful people: Gordon Morrison, until recently, Director of the Ballarat Art Gallery, and Elizabeth Cross, well known for her work as an art historian, curator and artist. Gordon has contributed a short essay on the icons and statues which are presented here as the Greenberg collection of Christian art and icons (Lots 1 – 80). His enthusiasm for the subject knows no bounds and we are deeply indebted to him for his assistance with the descriptions. Elizabeth, was kind enough to help us work through the legacy Joe left us of his own creations – the paintings, drawings, sketches and collages – and to help us understand his motivations and aspirations see (Lots 432 – 536). We think you will find Elizabeth’s essay helpful for a unique reason: virtually none of Joe Greenberg’s art has been offered for sale at public auction. There is no “market price” for an artist that has not been marketed. It is most unusual, perhaps unique, for a substantial body of work to come onto the market for the first time, more than a decade after the death of the artist. Hopefully, Elizabeth’s essay will help you find your way to the images and styles that appeal to you.

Special thanks also to Guy Earl-Smith whose assistance was invaluable in bringing the collection to market.

To return to my opening point; I think you will now understand why we feel you are about to get to know Joe Greenberg. If you can’t see the cheeky glint in his eye, the broad smile on his happy face, if you don’t feel the warmth of his welcome or feel that you have made the acquaintance of an extraordinary human being, then we haven’t done our job properly.

Leski Auctions is proud to have been trusted to bring this extraordinary assemblage to the market. We look forward to sharing it with you.


001-080 Christian Icons, Statuary and Antiques
081-137 Advertising Ware and Decorative Arts
138-149 Chinese & Asian Artefacts
150-194 Furniture
195-208 Rugs & Textiles
209-216 Lamps & Lighting
217-231 Jewellery, Watches, Luxury Accessories and Medals
232-273 Collectables
274-315 Books, Ephemera and Photographs
316-324 Australian Pottery
325-431 Australian & International Art
432-536 The Art of Joseph Greenberg
537-702 Tribal Art & Artefacts

Featured Lots

Lot 1

A Greek icon depicting the Archangel Michael chastising the soul of a rich man, hand-painted on wooden panel, 18th century,
30 x 23cm

Est: $1,000 - $1,500

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Lot 9

A Rare and Important Palestinian School Proskynetarion or Pilgrim’s Memento, comprising images of the Holy Sepulchre within the City of Jerusalem, and numerous holy personages and scenes from Scripture. circa 1800, painted on canvas; laid down on new canvas and reframed during the 20th century.
92 x 114cm.

Est: $6,000 - $10,000

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Lot 23

An antique crucifix figure of Christ, painted lead, 18th/19th century,
89cm high, 71cm wide

Est: $1,200 - $2,000

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Lot 28

A stunning Flemish Gothic revival alter piece adorned with angels, carved oak with polychrome finish, 19th century,
167cm high, 99cm wide, 22cm deep

Est: $10,000 - $15,000

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Lot 87

"WILL'S PIRATE SHAG" tobacco advertising point sale statue, late 19th early 20th century,
37cm high

Est: $400 - $600

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Lot 138

An antique Chinese silver and enamel pendant on silver dragon choker, Qing Dynasty, 19th century,
the pendant 10cm high, 12cm wide, 1.5cm deep, the choker 21cm wide

Est: $400 - $600

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Lot 144

Three fine Indian Moghul miniature portrait paintings on card, 18th/19th century,
remains of inscriptions verso (illegible),
8.5 x 6cm
Est: $600 - $1,000

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Lot 150

An antique English oak refectory table, 19th century,
74cm high, 183cm wide, 87cm deep

Est: $600 - $1,000

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Lot 158

An Indo-Portuguese bookcase, teak and ebony with peg joint construction, Goan origin, early 19th century,
206cm high, 123cm wide, 50cm deep

Est: $800 - $1,200

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Lot 189

A vintage Danish style armchair, teak and tan leather, mid 20th century,
69cm high, 66cm wide

Est: $400 - $600

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Lot 218

An antique 9ct rose gold gents pocket watch with fusee movement engraved "Alexander, London, Chronometer Makers To The Admiralty",
19th century,
7.5cm high overall

Est: $600 - $1,000

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Lot 345

A leather & cloth-bound album, with gilt embossed black leather label with the initials "G.K.N." [Newbury?] embossed, affixed to the front cover. The album contains 35 fine watercolours, one affixed to each page and many with annotations in pencil below.

Est: $3,500 - $5,000

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Lot 392

DICK (Goobalathaldin) ROUGHSEY (Australia (Aboriginal), 1924-85),
Emus in Termite Country,
acrylic on board,
dated "82" lower left; signed "Goobalathaldin" lower right,
50 x 77cm.

Est: $1,000 - $1,500

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Lot 396

James DAVIS (1940-2019),
Room in Fitzroy Street, St. Kilda, 1988
oil on canvas, titled verso,
151 x 151cm.

Est: $3,000 - $5,000

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Lot 413

RAY AUSTIN CROOKE (1922 - 2015),
mother and child,
oil on canvas,
signed lower left "R. Crooke",
120 x 120cm

Est: $20,000 - $30,000

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Lot 432

Joseph GREENBERG (1923 - 2007)
Parisian street scene,
oil on board,
signed and dated '48 at lower right,
38.5 x 46.5cm.

Est: $500 - $750

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Lot 461

Joseph GREENBERG (1923 - 2007)
Portrait of a Lady
oil on canvas,
signed lower right,
61 x 46cm.

Est: $300 - $500

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Lot 535

comprising of 100s of pages of handwritten observations, anecdotes, remembered conversations, jokes, drawings, watercolour sketches, photographs and philosophical musings. (7 volumes of various sizes).

Est: $500 - $1,000

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Lot 565

A seated female figure with pelican head dress, carved wood, Senufo tribe, Ivory Coast,
87cm high

Est: $600 - $800

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Lot 635

Female mask, carved wood, hair, shell and fibre, Kaluena/Bajokwe group, Angola,
31cm high

Est: $200 - $300

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