The Tarleton cigar case was bequeathed to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery by DB Tarleton, a descendant of William Tarleton, in 1945.
The convict silversmith Joseph Forrester was born in Perth, Scotland, in 1805. He was trained in Scotland as a silversmith, jeweller and watchcase maker. Forrester arrived in Hobart aboard the Thames on 20 November 1829 and was assigned to a fellow Scot, the retailer and silversmith, David Barclay (1804–84).
Forrester received a conditional pardon on 21 October 1845 and was working for himself at the time this cigar case was made. It was mentioned in the Hobart Town Courier, 11 February 1846, as a ‘beautifully embossed cigar case manufactured by Mr Forrester for Mr William Cole of Elizabeth Street’. William Cole was also a former employee of David Barclay.
The cigar case was to be presented to William Tarleton (1820–95). In 1828, Lieutenant-Governor Arthur divided Tasmania into nine police districts. Each district was controlled by a local magistrate who would report to the chief police magistrate in Hobart. William Tarleton was Assistant Police Magistrate for the Hamilton District, about 70 kilometres north-west of Hobart. He later became magistrate for New Norfolk, followed by an appointment to Hobart Town.
The depiction of a hunting scene in the decoration of the case points to the aspirations of some Tasmanian colonists to a life of gentlemanly leisure. This impression is reinforced by the rendering of the landscape, which is more reminiscent of Britain than of colonial Tasmania. Forrester’s style has a naive, simplified and almost graphic quality that arises out of his use of punched pattern. It also points to the possibility of a graphic source for the image, such as a print.
A rectangular, solid silver cigar case with a close fitted sliding lid. The interior is fitted with tubes to contain six cigars. One side of the case has an embossed scene depicting a mounted hunter with two dogs pursuing a hare through a cultivated countryside. The other side has an inscription placed within a central polished section framed by scrollwork. The inscription reads: ‘PRESENTED TO / WILLIAM TARLETON; ESQUIRE. / By MESSrs. WELLS, ELLEY & CLARK: / OFFICERS OF THE HAMILTON POLICE. / As a slight mark of their sense of his / unvaried polite and gentlemanly conduct / towards them during the period he held / the office of Assistant Police Magistrate. / JANUARY 1846’.
The remaining surface is decorated with embossed roses, thistles and shamrocks; there is a shell motif and scrollwork in each corner. The sides of the case are undecorated polished silver.
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery seeks to build a comprehensive representation of decorative arts made in Tasmania throughout the colonial period. While many of the objects in this collection are similar to contemporaneous objects made in Britain, they are distinguished by an idiosyncratic inflection derived from the colonial context of their production.
Tasmanian colonial silver represents a unique moment in the history of material culture in Australia. It is the product of a rapidly expanding colony, a booming economy and the availability of skilled convict labour. The colonists’ aspirations to fashionable respectability are reflected in objects such as the Tarleton cigar case. Their wealth meant that the skills of convicts such as Joseph Forrester were in demand. In the colonial setting, artisans were often called upon to make objects that were either more ambitious than their previous experience or outside their original specialisation. This often lent these objects a naive, robust quality absent in the more professional and predictable productions from Britain.
Engraved on face:
‘PRESENTED TO / WILLIAM TARLETON; ESQUIRE. / By MESSrs. WELLS, ELLEY & CLARK: / OFFICERS OF THE HAMILTON POLICE. / As a slight mark of their sense of his / unvaried polite and gentlemanly conduct / towards them during the period he held / the office of Assistant Police Magistrate. / JANUARY 1846’
Hawkins, J B Nineteenth Century Australian Silver, Antique Collector’s Club, Woodbridge, England, 1990
Hobart Town Courier, 11 February, 1846