Ernest Leviny (1818-1905) trained as a silversmith and jeweller in Budapest, Hungary. In 1843 he lived in Paris developing his craft before moving to London where he set up a manufacturing jewellers and goldsmiths company with a Russian jeweller. In 1852 reports of the goldrushes in Australia were circulating in London, and though the business was successful, Ernest left for the goldfields anticipating to stay in the colonies for a period of three years.
He arrived in Melbourne in 1853, travelling directly to the Castlemaine goldfields to try his luck, but the machinery he had brought with him was unsuitable. By 1854, he had established a jewellery and watchmaking business in Market Square Castlemaine and commenced investing in property and mining. He married his first wife Mary Issacs in 1858. She gave birth to a son Charles Ernest in 1859 but the baby died aged six months with Mary dying soon after in April 1860.
Ernest was a highly skilled silversmith and jeweller and his reputation rests on two known major works: the Colonial Gold and Redgum Inkstand (c.1855) which was exhibited the 1862 London International Exhibition and the Silver Standing Cup Centrepiece (c.1859), now in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria.
In 1864 Ernest Leviny married the 20 year-old Bertha Hudson, and together they had ten children. Ernest was a prominent Castlemaine citizen and at the time of his death in 1905, he was believed to be the wealthiest man in the town. He left his family well provided for, thus allowing his five unmarried daughters the freedom to choose their lifestyles and follow their artistic persuasions at a time when women were being given more opportunities to study art and take up careers. They worked across a range of media including painting, woodcarving, metalwork, needlework and photography.
In 1863, Ernest Leviny bought the 1 acre property Delhi Villa, which would later be renamed Buda after the Hungarian capital, Budapest.
Buda historic house and garden contains a rich legacy of the creative spirit of the Leviny Family, who lived there for over 118 years. It was largely due to the foresight of last surviving sister, Hilda, that Buda was preserved as a house and garden museum when she sold the property to the Castlemaine Art Gallery in 1970. Her sisters, Mary and Kate, left a broader civic legacy through their involvement in establishing the Castlemaine Art Gallery in 1913, and assisting with the development of the gallery’s fine collection of prints in the late 1920s.
Text adapted from the booklet Buda and the Leviny Family, Lauretta Zilles (2011).
Ernest Leviny, 1895
From the collection of Buda Historic Home and Garden.
Buda Historic Home & Garden