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'The crimson thread of kinship' Henry Parkes
, c. 1898

by Nelson Illingworth

painted terracotta (including base: 45.6 cm x 23.5 cm depth 14.5 cm)

The Hon. Sir Henry Parkes gcmg (1815–1896) was five times premier of New South Wales between 1872 and 1891, and a consistent advocate for Federation, or union of the colonies. The inscription on this bust quotes from a speech Parkes made in his seventies (a decade of his life in which he was twice remarried – to much younger women – and fathered a child). It was toward the end of his political career, in October 1889, that he gave his famous oration at Tenterfield, northern New South Wales, calling for a federal convention. The Federal Convention came to pass in Melbourne in February 1890. There Parkes responded to a toast to ‘A United Australia’, by asserting that ‘the crimson thread of kinship runs through us all’.

Nelson Illingworth trained in sculpture in England and worked at the Royal Doulton potteries for nine years before moving to Australia. In the 1890s he set up the Denbrae Fine Art Pottery in Sydney to make a range of flowerpots, fernpots and statuettes. Amongst his many portrait heads, busts and statuettes are a bust and a life-or-death mask of Henry Lawson, and a life-sized statue of Parkes which was praised as ‘really charming … depicting the late statesman in a very faithful pose . . . The posture chosen gives life to the figure, which is excellent in every particular.’

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased with funds provided by the Liangis family 2012
Accession number: 2012.2