Rare Seventeenth-Century Cabinet Goes on Display at the Wallace Collection

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The Holburne Museum’s magnificent seventeenth-century English cabinet has been restored and will be displayed at the Wallace Collection, London from 22 November 2008 to 31 May 2009.

The Holburne Museum was allocated this rare and wonderful cabinet c.1695 in 2005 by the Government as part of the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme. It is one of the largest and finest of only a dozen pieces of such furniture to have survived. It is beautifully decorated with flowers, landscapes, figures, birds and insects.

The cabinet came from Witcombe Park, South Gloucestershire and was probably acquired by Sir Michael Hicks (b. 1645) who rebuilt Witcombe Park in the 1690s. The cabinet appears to have remained in the house for over 300 years which probably accounts for its remarkably good condition.

The Witcombe cabinet is a rare example of japanned furniture with an extraordinary silvered stand and crest. All of the visible surfaces of the cabinet are finely decorated with the highest quality “japanning”. Japanning is a form of painting and varnishing that was intended to imitate oriental lacquer; however, the decoration of this cabinet most closely resembles that found on Chinese porcelain.

The Wallace Collection, as a member of the Museum Network, has conserved this cabinet for the Holburne Museum as its regional partner. Conservation and technical analysis have revealed that the main ingredients used to decorate the cabinet, which has an oak carcass, were shellac and lead-white oil paint. The Conservator has made a specially prepared panel based on technical analysis of the cabinet showing the complex build-up of materials used to produce the decoration.

After conservation the Witcombe cabinet formed the centrepiece of the Chinese Whispers exhibition at the Brighton Royal Pavilion, but has now returned to the Wallace Collection to feature in a special six month Conservation gallery display.

Alexander Sturgis, Director of the Holburne Museum notes: “This display not only draws attention to one of the great treasures of the Holburne Museum but also highlights a wonderful example of collaboration and support offered by the Wallace Collection as a National Museum towards one of its regional partners.

For further information please contact:
Katie Jenkins, The Holburne Museum T: 01225 820818 E: k.jenkins@bath.ac.uk


Display Lecture: Conservation and Analysis of the Witcombe Cabinet
Wednesday 26th November, 2008
1:00pm – 1:20pm Price: Admission Free, Ages: All Ages
Lecturer: Jürgen Huber
Senior Furniture Conservator at the Wallace Collection Jurgen Huber will briefly talk about the treatment of this outstanding magnificent English ivory-ground japanned cabinet.

The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, Manchester Square
London W1U 3BN Telephone 0207 563 9500
Free Admission Open 7 days a week, 10am – 5pm

The Museum Network
The Museum Network is a partnership between a leading national museum, the Wallace Collection, and four important English regional collections: The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle; Compton Verney; the Holburne Museum of Art in Bath; and Waddesdon Manor. All five museums are located in historic buildings and four are formed from great nineteenth-century private collections. The fifth, Compton Verney, is the home of a growing collection which closely reflects the tastes of its founder Sir Peter Moores.

Acceptance in Lieu
The Acceptance in Lieu (AiL) Scheme enables taxpayers to transfer important works of art and other heritage objects into public ownership while paying Inheritance Tax, or one of its earlier forms. The taxpayer is given the full open market value of the item, which is then allocated to a public museum, archive or library.

The Holburne Museum
One of the country’s great small museums, The Holburne has a wonderfully rich collection of paintings, silver, sculpture, furniture and porcelain, with important works by Gainsborough, Stubbs and Turner. Housed in the 18th century Sydney Hotel and set within the park of Sydney Gardens, it is Bath’s most beautiful museum.

The Museum has closed to undertake a redevelopment that will see its existing home restored, refurbished and extended through a striking extension designed by Eric Parry Architects. The development will make the Museum fully accessible to all for the first time, create a purpose designed education space and allow more of the collection to be displayed than ever before. The renewed Holburne is scheduled to reopen in autumn 2010. The Holburne Museum is a registered charity (no. 310288). The development is supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (www.hlf.org.uk).

Published on: 07/11/2008