We are excited to see that Thomas Chippendale’s tercentenary is being celebrated by the art world in a big way. In addition to the Leeds City Museum hosting an exhibition entitled Thomas Chippendale: A Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design, 1718-2018 from February 9 to June 9, there will be additional events held at Dumfries House, Harewood House, Newby Hall, Paxton House, amongst many others. HRH Prince Charles commented, ‘Chippendale was one of those rare individuals whose talents transcend both time and place; he not only achieved international renown in his own lifetime, but created an artistic legacy which endures to the present day. From his day to ours, ‘Chippendale’ has been a byword for excellence in design and manufacture.’ To learn more about the celebrations happening throughout the year, have a look at the Chippendale 300 website.
This is not the first time that Chippendale has been celebrated, and nor will it be the last. Today, we are looking at an exhibition that highlighted Chippendale furniture at Temple Newsam House in 1951 entitled Thomas Chippendale: A Festival of Britain Exhibition.
This exhibition featured 134 pieces that are known to be by Chippendale, can be attributed to Chippendale, or feature design elements known to be in Chippendale’s style. Several of the pages in the exhibition catalogue feature photographs of the furniture, and the catalogue is laid out by the owners who lent the furniture for the exhibition.
We were delighted to see that a piece currently in our collection was featured in the exhibition. This unusual secretaire commode was the subject of an article in The Connoisseur in May 1955 (thank you to Ian Anderson for bringing this to our attention!), and the article mentions that this secretaire was featured in the exhibition.
This piece was part of a group of furniture lent by Alfred Jowett, Esq. It is exhibition number 88, described as a ‘Secretaire-Commode: mahogany; the top drawer fitted as secretaire; canted corders with heavy scroll carved ornament; gilt brass handles. Probably by Chippendale. ‘Director’ period. Ht. 39″ Lgh. 50 ” Room XVIII.’
More recent research suggests that this piece is in fact attributable to William Gomm, which we explored in a previous blog post. Gomm was a contemporary of Chippendale and would have undoubtedly drawn inspiration for some of his designs from the Director.
It is exciting to be able to add this history to the story of this particular piece. Alfred Jowett was a collector of Old Master Drawings as well as furniture. A number of drawings from Jowett’s collection are now in illustrious public galleries across the UK, including the British Museum and the Ashmolean Museum. A very fine Irish Chippendale mahogany side table from Jowett’s collection can now be seen at Bowling Hall in West Yorkshire.
We will continue to look closely at Thomas Chippendale throughout the year and look forward to attending the various exhibitions and events celebrating his work.