Empires & Splendour: The David Roche Collection.

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Empires & Splendour: The David Roche Collection.


Art Gallery Of South Australia. (6 June 2008 – 27 July 2008)




Multi-artist exhibition. Located: Australia (SA). Decorative / design arts.

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The Art Gallery of South Australia’s sumptuous new exhibition, Empires & Splendour: The David Roche Collection offers visitors the chance to immerse themselves in oldworld opulence and grandeur through 100 luxury decorative arts objects from 18th and 19th century France, Britain, Russia and Germany.

This internationally renowned private collection – compiled over a lifetime by astute Adelaide collector and philanthropist David Roche – has never been publicly displayed before.

Clemente Ciuli table top

Detail: Clemente Ciuli, maker of mosaic top, Italy, working early 19th century, Charles Percier and Pierre–François Léonard Fontaine, designers of base, France, 1764 – 1838 and 1762 – 1853, attributed to Jacob Desmalter, maker of base, France, 1770 – 1841, Centre table (gueridon), c1810, Paris, mahogany, gilt bronze mounts, micro–mosaic top, inlaid marble border, 81.5 cm, 111.0 cm (diam); The David Roche Foundation.

"The David Roche Collection, with its remarkable breadth and quality, is testament to one man’s lifelong passion and commitment to collecting, displaying and sharing art and beauty” says Christopher Menz, Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia and co-curator of the exhibition. “We are delighted to be working with Mr Roche and the David Roche Foundation to reveal some of the treasures from this major collection to the public for the first time” he said.

Among the highlights in Empires & Splendour is exquisite porcelain by Chelsea, Meissen, Worcester and Sèvres, luxurious bronze and gilded metalware, and sumptuous objects by Fabergé. Also on display is furniture by leading designers Thomas Hope, Chippendale the Younger and George Bullock, along with paintings and sculpture by important artists of the period.

A number of works in the Roche Collection boast connections to some of the most famous figures in history, and to a raft of aristocrats from across Europe.

Some of the many objects with fascinating provenance include: Napoleon Bonaparte’s flintlock pistol; Catherine the Great’s armchair; plates from a dinner service owned by the Duke of Gloucester, brother of George III; and a fashionable kangaroo-themed plate given as part of a dinner service by Empress Josephine and Napoleon, to his sister Pauline on her marriage to Prince Camillo Borghese.

Curator of Decorative Arts and co-curator of the exhibition, Robert Reason, believes the collection is the richer for these historical connections: “Each object in the exhibition is already exemplary for its outstanding design and workmanship, but the fact that some of these pieces can be traced to the most celebrated figures of their day makes them even more precious” he says. [AGSA media, 2008]

Accompanying this splendid exhibition is an appropriately lavish book, featuring detailed images of the David Roche Collection, beyond just those selected for display at the Art Gallery. The book also includes scholarly essays by the Director, Curators and other experts, as well as a foreword by Mr Roche himself.

Last Updated

16 Oct 2023