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18TH CENTURY: £200,000 antique table for Temple Newsam House

18TH CENTURY: £200,000 antique table for Temple Newsam House

Temple Newsam House

Leeds City Council is expected to spend nearly £200,000 on an 18th century table to add to its museums collection, a document has revealed.

The Townley Commode dates back to 1770 and is understood to be a significant piece of furniture in the history of design, and the item has now been purchased for the collection at Temple Newsam House.

The document was quick to state that the cost, around £196,500, will be paid for by a grant from Leeds Art Fund – an independent “friends” organisation which funds purchases of items for the city’s collections, meaning none of the council’s budget would go towards the item.

It stated: “Leeds Museums & Galleries contribute significantly to the best council plan, not least through the service’s delivery of culture.

“New acquisitions to the collections provide opportunities for new displays, interpretation and engagement. This acquisition will add to the Designated decorative art collections, ensuring they continue to be of national and international significance.

“The cost of the acquisition will be fully funded by a grant from the Leeds Art Fund, therefore making best use of resources in line with the best council plan.”

The item is listed by antique dealer Thomas Coulborn & Sons. It stated the item was an “ormolu mounted tulipwood, sycamore, amaranth and satinwood marquetry commode with a lava and specimen marble top”.

The company quotes an advertisement for the piece from 1957, which states: “This striking commode is a unique testament to the archaeological neo-classical spirit of the late 18th century and to the legacy of Charles Townley (1737-1805), one of the era’s greatest antiquarians and collectors.

“The entire commode, from its precious hardstone and lava top purchased on one of his Grand tours to the designs for the neo-classical panels which came from Townley’s personal copy of Le Antichità di Ercolano is the epitome of his passion for antiquities.

“It is also perhaps the ultimate demonstration of the refined aesthetic seen in an elite group of Grand Tourists who commissioned furniture to incorporate the treasures they collected abroad.”

The item was last purchased by Henry Ford II in 1957 for £2,750.

Despite the term “commode” now referring more commonly to a moveable toilet, marquetry commodes were in fact classically-designed chests of drawers or cabinets.

 

Words: Richard Beecham, Local Demcoracy Reporter


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