# 43167

LOMER, Albert; DAVIES & CO.; NOBLE, Timothy

Val Vose, celebrated ventriloquist : three portraits taken in Australian studios, 1873-1876-1879.

  • Sold

I. Studio portrait of Val Vose recreating a performance with one of his dolls. Davies & Co., Melbourne, [late 1873?]. Albumen print photograph, carte de visite format, 103 x 64 mm (mount); verso with an enigmatic inscription in ink, in Vose’s hand, ‘Female Ventriloquist’; the print has some light surface rubbing, and the mount is a little toned.

II. Studio portrait of Val Vose wearing a dark blazer and gloves. Timothy Noble, Melbourne, [1876]. Albumen print photograph, carte de visite format, 102 x 64 mm (mount); signed in ink by the sitter on the recto; verso also inscribed in ink by Vose: ‘From Val Vose, To his Friend T. Sinclaire, per John Bryan. March 1st 1876’; the print has some mottling in the negative, but is in good condition, as is the mount.

III. Studio portrait of Val Vose wearing a summer suit. Albert Lower, Brisbane, [August 1879]. Albumen print photograph, carte de visite format, 101 x 63 mm (mount); uninscribed; the print and mount are both in fine condition.

Valentine “Val” Vose was the stage name of Englishman Thomas Davis Eaton (c. 1851-1887), who was, along with his rivals E. D. Davies and Monsieur Bosco, one of the three most acclaimed ventriloquists in the world in the 1870s and ’80s. Remarkably, during 1875-76, all three of these great ventriloquists were touring Australia simultaneously.

Vose himself spent a considerable amount of time in Australia, during three lengthy visits spanning the period 1873-79, and he was enormously popular with colonial audiences. From the multitude of notices and reviews published in Australian newspapers of the time, we have been able to piece together his travelling itinerary throughout these years. Vose first performed in Melbourne, in October 1873; he was in Adelaide in December and January 1874; then Geelong and Ballarat, returning to Melbourne in March 1874. He had a season in Sydney in April-May 1874, then a final round of performances in Melbourne before leaving for America. A year later he returned to Australia and was performing in Melbourne again in April 1875, Castlemaine in May, and Launceston and Hobart in May-June 1875. In July he was back in Melbourne; in August in Geelong and Ballarat; and in September 1875 he returned to Tasmania. In October-November 1875 he was in Adelaide; in the summer months from December 1875 to February 1876 he performed in Melbourne, Gippsland, Kyneton and Ballarat. He left Melbourne for London around March 1876. In late 1877 he returned to tour Western Australia; then in early 1878 he was in South Australia, before leaving for San Francisco. He came back to Australia for a third time in 1879, and performed in Melbourne, Sydney, Albury, Wagga Wagga, Goulburn, Newcastle, Glen Innes, and Toowoomba, before arriving in Brisbane in August 1879. In September he was back in Sydney, from where he sailed for England. On the way home he performed in Palmerston in the Northern Territory in October 1879, and in Batavia in the Dutch East Indies in December 1879. A planned final trip to Australia never eventuated, and Vose spent his remaining years in the States and England. He died of consumption in Southampton on 27 December 1887.

Provenance: from a group of theatre-related photographs originally collected by the Sydney actor, stage manager and playwright Alfred Dampier. John Bryan, actor and theatrical agent, to whom Vose gave his signed 1876 portrait by Timothy Noble, was Dampier’s manager. Bryan was also the author of the pamphlet A short biographical sketch of the professional career and travels of Val Vose, the great modern ventriloquist : anecdotes, opinions of the press, &c. (Melbourne : Charlwood, 1875).

In spite of the fact that he was a very significant figure on the Australian popular stage in the 1870s, we have not been able to trace any portraits of Val Vose in Australian institutional collections.