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The Parliament House Art Collection is the custodian of the Official Gifts Collection, comprising of gifts from other nations, Australian States and Territories, and national and international organisations.

For centuries, nations have exchanged gifts as symbols of diplomacy and to enrich relations between them. Gifts are given to signal the beginning of a new relationship, the continuation of a longstanding friendship and as tokens of respect or gratitude.

The Official Gifts Collection dates back to Federation; however, many of the gifts were presented to commemorate Australia’s Bicentenary, and the opening of Parliament House, in 1988. Other gifts have been presented to mark a particular event, or to signify a milestone in the relationship between nations. Gifts are displayed throughout the building and in the courtyards and gardens outside.

John Wadsworth (1879–1955) The Queen's Vase, 1953–1954.

John Wadsworth (1879–1955)
The Queen's Vase, 1953–1954
Glazed and gilded ceramic vase with lid and moulded animals on a black bean base, woodwork
Presented to the Commonwealth of Australia by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

 

Also known as the Coronation Vase, this rare ten-sided vase, designed by John Wadsworth of Minton’s Ltd., was handcrafted by the British Pottery Manufacturers’ Federation to honour the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Eight thousand hours of work went into creating the Coronation Vase and its replicas—making it one of the most intricate pieces of bone china ever made. The original was gifted to Her Majesty along with eleven replicas which were presented to seven Commonwealth countries and the four countries of the United Kingdom who are represented by floral emblems on shield motifs around the top of the vase.

Around the base are the Queen’s beasts, ten heraldic statues depicting the genealogy of Queen Elizabeth II. 

John Wadsworth (1879–1955) The Queen's Vase, 1953–1954.

John Wadsworth (1879–1955)
The Queen's Vase (detail), 1953–1954
Glazed and gilded ceramic vase with lid and moulded animals on a black bean base, woodwork
Presented to the Commonwealth of Australia by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

John Wadsworth (1879–1955) The Queen's Vase, 1953–1954.

John Wadsworth (1879–1955)
The Queen's Vase (detail), 1953–1954
Glazed and gilded ceramic vase with lid and moulded animals on a black bean base, woodwork
Presented to the Commonwealth of Australia by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

John Wadsworth (1879–1955) The Queen's Vase, 1953–1954.

John Wadsworth (1879–1955)
The Queen's Vase (detail), 1953–1954
Glazed and gilded ceramic vase with lid and moulded animals on a black bean base, woodwork
Presented to the Commonwealth of Australia by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

Charles Dixon (1872–1934) The landing at Gallipoli, 1915

Charles Dixon (1872–1934)
The landing at Gallipoli, 1915
Oil on canvas
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

This work by English artist Charles Dixon in 1916 was presented to the Australian Government in 1917 by Mr Austin Taylor ‘in memory of gallant deeds.’ The painting depicts the frenetic activity of the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops at ANZAC Cove on April 25, 1915. In the background, the naval bombardment of the imposing clifftops emphasises the commanding position held by the Turkish army, as the ANZAC troops desperately scramble for the meagre cover afforded in the foothills.

 

Charles Dixon was predominantly a maritime artist who first exhibited at the Royal Academy at the age of 16. Apart from this work, Dixon produced several other scenes of the First World War, including The Gallipoli Landing which depicts the landing of the First Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers at W Beach near Cape Helles, where they were famously awarded six VCs “before Breakfast.”

Aqjangajuk Shaa (born 1937) Dancing walrus, 1999.

Aqjangajuk Shaa (born 1937)
Dancing walrus, 1999
Serpentine Green stone, caribou bone
Gifted by the Government of Canada, 2000
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

 

This sculpture was a gift from the Canadian government to the Australian parliament and people to commemorate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Canada.  It is made from serpentine stone and has caribou bone tusks. Aqjangagjuk Shaa is an Inuit carver from Cape Dorset in Nunavut Territory.

Han Sai Por (born 1943) Genetic Plant Series #01, 2014

Han Sai Por (born 1943)
Genetic Plant Series #01, 2014
Black granite
Gifted by the Government and People of the Republic of Singapore, 2015
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

 

Genetic Plant No 1 has been hand carved and worked by the artist from dense black shanxi stone. Its form is evocative of plant life as well as suggesting fingers opening and closing on a palm.  The sculpture was a gift from the Government and People of the Republic of Singapore to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Australia/Singapore relations in 2015.

T. Thomsen (active 1790s) Dutch long case clock, 1792

T. Thomsen (active 1790s)
Dutch long case clock, 1792
Woods, fretwork, glass, brass, metal, oil paint and gilded carved wooden figures, metalwork
Gifted by the Government and People of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, 1988
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

 

Created in the late 18th century, this magnificent long case clock was a gift to the Parliament from the Netherlands.  Richly decorated, the small bell tower on the face of the clock has another hand that tells the time in a different time zone.  The clock also shows the dates and phases of the moon and its chimes can regularly be heard throughout the Marble Foyer – not bad for 200 years old and still ticking!

T. Thomsen (active 1790s) Dutch long case clock (detail), 1792.

T. Thomsen (active 1790s)
Dutch long case clock (detail), 1792
Woods, fretwork, glass, brass, metal, oil paint and gilded carved wooden figures, metalwork
Gifted by the Government and People of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, 1988
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

T. Thomsen (active 1790s) Dutch long case clock (detail), 1792.

T. Thomsen (active 1790s)
Dutch long case clock (detail), 1792
Woods, fretwork, glass, brass, metal, oil paint and gilded carved wooden figures, metalwork
Gifted by the Government and People of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, 1988
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

John Furphy and Sons (established 1864) End casting of Furphy water cart, 1942–1960

John Furphy and Sons (established 1864) End casting of Furphy water cart, 1942–1960
Cast iron, brass, coloured enamel paint
Gifted by Ken Ingram
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

 

The Furphy Water Cart was invented in the 1880’s by the Shepparton firm of John Furphy and sons.  The widespread use of the cart in Australian military camps during the First World War is thought to have given rise to the word ‘Furphy’ being used as a particularly Australian euphemism for a wild rumour or impossible story. 

During the war Furphy water carts were typically placed near the latrine, the only place where soldiers, out of sight from commanding officers, could congregate to talk about the latest news and relay second and third-hand (often unreliable) reports of the progress of the war.  The drivers of the carts who travelled between camps were also notorious gossips spreading ‘furphies’ as they went.

In 1993 former principal parliamentary reporter Ken Ingram gifted this Furphy water tank to the Parliament, his wish was for it to be installed in Parliament in locations where journalists, staff and building occupants might congregate to talk.   

John Dowie (1915–2008) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 1987

John Dowie (1915–2008)
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 1987
Bronze
Gifted by the Order of Australia Association, 1988
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

 

The magnificent bronze statue of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II can be found on the aptly named Queen’s Terrace adjacent to the public café.   Created by South Australian sculptor Dr John Stuart Dowie AM (1915-2008), the sculpture was a gift from the Order of Australia Association. 

Decorative collar, 1927, presented to the Commonwealth of Australia by the Indian Empire, 1927.

Decorative collar, 1927
Silver sequins, glass beads, padded silk forms and tassels, fine twisted and coiled wire lengths, embroidery
Presented to the Commonwealth of Australia by the Indian Empire, 1927
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

 

This decorative garland was presented in 1927 to then Prime Minister Stanley Melbourne Bruce by Dewan Bahadur T. Rangachariar (c.1865–1945). Rangachariar was the Deputy-President of the Indian Central Assembly, and represented the Government of India at the opening of the Parliament House in Canberra. After the official opening on 9 May 1927, representatives from dominions of the British Empire were invited to speak. Rangachariar presented beaded and embroidered garlands to the Duke (later King George VI) and Duchess of York and the Prime Minister.

 

This garland presented to Prime Minister Bruce features inscriptions expressing India’s friendship and the bonds of Empire, and its presentation was accompanied by the reading of a Sanskrit poem that Rangachariar had written for the occasion entitled ‘India’s Message to Australia’. The poem offered formal greetings and reiterated the bonds formed between Australia and India during the First World War. At its conclusion, he explained to the gathering the meaning of each of the twenty two stanzas in detail.

Events surrounding the Opening were reported extensively, and in traditional Indian dress, Rangachariar was a conspicuous figure. The Sydney Morning Herald gave his entrance to the Senate chamber special mention with the headline ‘Picturesque Indian Representative’. The garlands were also mentioned—although slight creative license may have been taken with numerous news reports describing the garlands as being woven of solid gold, and studded with large diamonds.

 

Decorative collar, 1927, presented to the Commonwealth of Australia by the Indian Empire, 1927.

Decorative collar (detail), 1927, presented to the Commonwealth of Australia by the Indian Empire, 1927.
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra, ACT.

John Wadsworth (1879–1955) The Queen's Vase, 1953–1954.
John Wadsworth (1879–1955) The Queen's Vase, 1953–1954.
John Wadsworth (1879–1955) The Queen's Vase, 1953–1954.
John Wadsworth (1879–1955) The Queen's Vase, 1953–1954.
Charles Dixon (1872–1934) The landing at Gallipoli, 1915
Aqjangajuk Shaa (born 1937) Dancing walrus, 1999.
Han Sai Por (born 1943) Genetic Plant Series #01, 2014
T. Thomsen (active 1790s) Dutch long case clock, 1792
T. Thomsen (active 1790s) Dutch long case clock (detail), 1792.
T. Thomsen (active 1790s) Dutch long case clock (detail), 1792.
John Furphy and Sons (established 1864) End casting of Furphy water cart, 1942–1960
John Dowie (1915–2008) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 1987
Decorative collar, 1927, presented to the Commonwealth of Australia by the Indian Empire, 1927.
Decorative collar, 1927, presented to the Commonwealth of Australia by the Indian Empire, 1927.
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