Classics and Archaeology Virtual Museum

The Sutton Collection: Some Additions?

A Detective Tale
by John Burke

A bust of John Hugh Sutton, by Web Gilbert, is housed in the Ewing Gallery. An account of John Hugh Sutton and the bequest named after him has been written by Leah Breninger. The following case is based on research into archives held in the University Gallery, the University Archives, the Registrar's correspondance file, the records of the Classical Association of Victoria and departmental files.

It is here argued that the Sutton Collection is considerably larger than has been believed. The discussion is in summary form; a separate document contains extracts from related sources.

The Sutton Bequest

Mr & Mrs Sutton's £500 bequest in memory of their son was accepted by Registrar on 13 May 1926.

Council Regulation 68 (later R 7.8) prescribed expenditure within three years of passage of Regulation.

Sutton Trust account opened on 1 May 1926. £200 sent to Seltman on 12 Sept 1928. Seltman signed acknowledgement of receipt on 23.11.28, on his handwritten list of two consignments totalling £350.15.0 addressed to the Registrar, adding a note asking for the difference.

Scutt given £300 from same account on 21 Dec 1928 to take with him to Europe. Scutt sails on 1 January. Registrar writes to him on 10 Jan 1929 telling him to pay Seltman the difference.


First consignment of coins arrived in October 1928 (Kerry, 18.1.28).

Second consignment of coins mentioned by Seltman in letter to Jessie Webb dated 7 December 1928. Another letter sent by Seltman to Registrar on 14 December 1928 says that the second consignment of coins is being sent with the same mail as the letter. The Registrar wrote to Kerry on 31 Jan 1929 saying that he had a second consignment of coins.

The coins of each consignment can be identified from the two lists in Seltman's hand, one sent to Jessie Webb and the other to the Registrar. Further details in the notes on coins.

Vases Etc.

In sum: 37 items altogether on the list and two invoices, for a total of £535.

Can we identify the vases described so vaguely on the Seltman list and invoices?
Can they be attributed to the Sutton bequest?

Vases MUV 13-20 were mentioned in Trendall's 1951 article on Attic vases in Australia and New Zealand, and he says that the vases were purchased in honour of Sutton.

MUV 1-22 and MU 1-17 are listed in a typed catalogue dated 1958. MUV 21 is known to have been purchased in 1957; there is a note by P Connor (5.4.72) to say that this does not mean that MUV 22 was not part of the set gathered by Seltman.

In the Gallery’s database, MU 1-9 were attributed to the Sutton bequest, as were MUV 1-12 and MUV 20. It is not known by whom these were attributed, or when. These vases and artefacts can be matched as follows to the 22 items on the Seltman list:



Cost £

Previous no.


Mycenaean stirrup jar




Mycenaean amphora




Sub-Mycenaean jug




Cypriot pyxis




Proto-Corinthian aryballos


MUV 9 Corinthian Alabastron


Attic Geometric bowl




Attic Dipylon lebes




Rhodian miniature jug


MUV 10


Corinthian pyxis


MUV 12


Attic BF vase



Attic RF vase



Attic RF vase



Attic WG vase


MUV 20


Bronze Figure Perseus


MU 6


Bronze Figure Heracles


MU 9


Boeotian terracotta


MU 1


Boy with lyre terracotta]

MU 3


Cock ]


MU 2


Bird ]

MU 4


Child's doll


MU 5


Head of Hera


MU 7


Head of Dionysus


MU 8

The items on the 1929 invoice can be matched as follows:




MUV 13 (Sotheby's 14/3/1929, to Spink for £48).


Stone pedestal


MU 11 Minoan Lamp base 15" tall.

Some items on the 1930 invoice match very clearly with catalogued objects known to be here in 1958 (1958 typed catalogue; Connor 1979 says that the horse had been in Melbourne since ‘a little before 1930’):


stone dish


MU 16


small pottery jar



small pottery jar



pottery vase with lid



bronze horse


MU 15


bronze safety pin


MU 13


iron spear head


MU 14


two bronze arrowheads



bronze scraper


MU 17


pottery pear-shaped vase



painted pottery jug



painted pottery jug



painted pottery jug


Of the artefacts numbered MU 1-17 on the 1958 list, only MU 10 (bronze mirror) and MU 12 (small glass vase) are not accounted for in this cross-matching. The 1958 list, however, says that MU 10 &emdash; MU 17 is "unofficial numbering", so the sequence cannot be taken as indicative of chronology; the provenance of MU 10 and MU 12 remains a mystery. Similarly, item 32 (2 bronze arrow heads) are not found on the 1958 list and must be presumed lost before then (unless the mirror was substituted for the arrowheads…)

Can the unidentified items on the Seltman list and invoices be matched with vases from the collection? I would propose the following (items already attributed to Sutton are in italics):

List and Invoices

1951 Trendall and/or 1958 Typed Catalogue

 10. Attic BF vase

 MUV 14 Attic Black Figure Lekythos

 11. Attic RF vase

 MUV 16 Attic Red Figure Lekythos

 12. Attic RF vase

 MUV 17 Attic Red Figure Lekythos

 26. small pottery jar

 MUV 22 Mycenaean ? Miniature Bottle

 27. small pottery jar

 MUV 2 Mycenaean Stiruup jar

 28. pottery vase with lid

MUV 06 Attic Geometric Low-standed bowl (with lid)

 34. pottery pear-shaped vase

 MUV 19 Attic Red Figure Trefoil oinochoe

 35. painted pottery jug

 MUV 11 Etrusco-Corinthian Black-Figure Alabastron

 36. painted pottery jug

 MUV 15 Attic Black Figure Lekythos

 37. painted pottery jug

 MUV 18 Attic Red Figure Lekythos

This match-up accounts for all the vases on the list and invoices and all the vases mentioned by Trendall and the 1958 Catalogue. Even if individual vases are not correctly matched, it seems safe to say that the group as a whole matches.

All other vases in the MUV series can be accounted for. MUV 13-20 are the only vases in the collection for which no credit attribution had ever been made - and it would be very surprising indeed if they were bought out of another bequest or grant of which no mention appears in the Arts Faculty minutes or Registrar's correspondence. In this case, the argument from silence is fairly compelling.


Scutt and Webb asked for casts to decorate the Arts Building, Council referred the matter to the Arts Faculty which approved (Minutes 8/10/25). Shortly thereafter the Finance Ctee suggested that they could be paid for out of the Sutton money, which provoked a very sharp negative response from Scutt (13/1/26 to Registrar).

In any case, two reproductions were obtained. On 23 Nov 1927, the Registrar wrote to Miss A Michaelis enclosing a letter from Miss Webb asking her to buy casts, plus draft for £25 for cost and expenses. It is not known what these reproductions were (not the Acropolis kore), and in 1929 Scutt mentioned two reproductions already acquired for the Arts Building (see below).

Yet it seems that Scutt did intend to buy more reproductions from the Sutton money. Seltman wrote to the Registrar on 14.12.1928 that Scutt intended to spend most of the remaining Sutton money (just under £150) on plaster casts; a week earlier he wrote to Jessie Webb that he had already got an Acropolis Kore. But on 1.1.1929 Scutt wrote asking the Registrar to request an additional grant of £100 for reproductions "such as the two already acquired for the Arts Building". The Registrar reported approval on 27.2.1929 but did not send the money until 25.6.1929. It is tempting to think that Scutt had indeed committed Sutton money to casts, but changed his mind when he received this separate £100 explicitly for reproductions. I suggest that he turned around and quickly spent an extra £100 of the Sutton money on genuine items - the two referred to in the Seltman invoice for £100 on 14 September. It had to be done quickly because the three-year period for spending the bequest was soon to expire. That would take total expenditure of Sutton money on genuine items to £450. But then comes the second Seltman invoice for £85...

The Money Trail

The total of the Seltman list and invoices (including coins) is £350 + 100 + 85 = £535. This is £35 more than the £200 Seltman was sent and the £300 Scutt took with him, and more than the original bequest. Could it have come out of the interest?

The Trust Ledger shows the following entries for the Sutton account:

In June 1929 a quote was accepted for work on a small museum enclosure on the first floor of the Arts Building (West end of corridor), to cost £67/10/0. Upon his return from Europe, Scutt set about getting display cabinets. On 12 March 1930 the Registrar authorized Foy & Gibson to go ahead with a coin case and two glass cases costing £40/10/0. Precisely this amount was charged on 7 August 1930 against the Trust account. So the extra £35 probably did not come from the accumulated interest.

One possibility is that the extra £35 came from the £100 that was supposed to be spent on reproductions. The 100 electrotype coins on the Seltman list are costed at £15, and may have been retrospectively charged to the reproductions account, bringing the cost of the genuine antiquities down to £520. Doubtless Scutt did buy other reproductions from those funds: the Acropolis kore is certain, the prow of a trireme that used to be in Old Arts, the Charioteer of Delphi, the friezes that came from the base of a statue buried in the Themistoclean wall may all date from that period. I am also tempted to think that the 109 electrotype coins on pins may have been bought out of the same money. We have no clue when we got them; but Jessie Webb, who had been buying coins annually since 1924, came under pressure in Feb 1929 to stop buying genuine coins and start buying replicas instead &emdash; perhaps she asked Scutt to use some of the £100 for reproductions of coins. Yet even if the electrotype coins on pins are included, there doesn’t seem to be enough casts and copies to add up to £100, especially as two of the reproductions mentioned above might have been purchased in 1927 by Jessie Webb. Finally, early in 1930 there arrived 5 large crates of casts which the Director of the Atelie had secured from the South Kensington Museum. Doubtless Scutt knew of this 'gift' (about which the Registrar was vehement, both about the quality and the hidden costs), and he might have felt that more reproductions would be superfluous.

So, as I imagine it, Scutt writes to Seltman to buy another lot of genuine items costing £85. Seltman obliges, and sends an invoice dated 31 December 1930 with the goods. Scutt pays from the funds he has been advanced. The items on the second list turn up early in 1931. By this time the little Museum in Old Arts has been opened and the other items are on display. A big fuss is not made of the new objects on the two invoices because it was a requirement of the gift deed that the money be spent within three years of its receipt, i.e. before 13 May 1929.

And the last £20 in the Sutton Bequest account? If Scutt had spent the entire £100 on reproductions, he would have been £20 out of pocket. The Trust Fund Journal has an entry for 31 December 1933 showing that £20/1/- was used to buy MMBW stock. Hmmm...

But in 1937: in the Arts Faculty Minutes 1937 (1930-39 p. 296) it is reported that Miss Webb asked for £50 for Stewart's excavations in Cyprus, spoils to the contributor. The Finance Committee had approved, but said the money should come from Sutton Bequest or Arts Apparatus account. Scutt, as Sutton trustee, said he can't make a grant. The request was referred to Professorial Board. Why didn't Scutt say that all the Sutton money was gone?

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