Historical information

The Argus reports that “In 1916 the members of the bar took the opportunity afforded by his [a’Beckett’s] 80th birthday, and the completion of 30 years on the bench to present to the judges of the Supreme Court, with his permission a portrait of himself, to be placed in line with portraits of other judges in the Supreme Court library. The portrait which depicts Sir Thomas a’Beckett in his robes, was an excellent piece of work of Mr Max Meldrum. The unveiling was made the occasion of a little demonstration at which some congratulatory speeches were made."

Sir Thomas a'Beckett arrive in Melbourne as a teenager with his parents in 1851. His uncle was the former Chief Justice, his father a well known solicitor. At the Bar Sir Thomas mainly worked in the Equity jurisdiction, which he took as a specialisation with him to the bench.

This is an early work of Meldrum, he won the Archibald prize for portraiture in 1939 and 1940.


The portrait is of interest for whom it portrays and as the early work of a well known artist.

Physical description

A full length portrait in oils of Justice Sir Thomas a'Beckett. Sir Thomas is seated, his feet placed on a plush red foot stool. He is dressed in his red judicial robes with white fur trimming and black trousers and a full bottomed wing. Justice a’Beckett has a white beard and moustache, he was 80 years of age when this portrait was painted. In his hand he holds a rolled document. At his elbow, there are books upon a table. He sits in a fine carved wood and leather chair, in the background a gold frame is just visible. A line in the canvas indicates that the size of the painting was expanded.
The frame is gold with a gum leaf motif.

Inscriptions & markings

Max Meldrum 1916