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Outstanding set of pier tables and glasses (mirrors) by Thomas Chippendale acquired for the nation
Thomas Chippendale (1718–79), A set of pier tables and glasses, c. 1771. Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

LONDON.- A highly important set of pier tables and glasses (mirrors) by Thomas Chippendale, often described as ‘the Shakespeare of English furniture-making’, has been accepted in lieu of inheritance tax for the nation and allocated to the V&A. Through the Acceptance in Lieu in situ loan agreement with Harewood House Trust, the pair will remain on public display in the Music Room, the most complete Robert Adam-designed room at Harewood House in West Yorkshire, and the room for which they were specifically designed.

Thomas Chippendale (1718–79) is the most famous name in 18th century English furniture. His neo-classical and rococo furniture is some of the most acclaimed and sought-after ever produced. Dating from c.1771, these tables and glasses are among the most distinguished items from his important and most valuable commission for Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood, at Harewood House. The pier tables, with exquisite marquetry tops, are of outstanding sophistication and quality. The large and impressive glasses, surmounted by fluted columns, represent the pinnacle of Chippendale’s craftsmanship.

The tables and glasses join the world’s most important collection of English furniture held at the V&A, alongside other examples of Chippendale furniture, including pieces commissioned for leading 18th century actor David Garrick’s Thames-side villa in 1775. The tables and glasses will undergo a programme of conservation by the V&A’s conservators to restore the surface finish closer to Chippendale’s original intention.

Tristram Hunt, Director, V&A said: “It is exceptionally rare to find Thomas Chippendale furniture as well documented as that at Harewood House – the most lavish commission Chippendale ever received. Of superlative quality, the tables and glasses are welcome additions to the V&A’s world-class collection of English furniture. We are delighted that they can remain in their original location to be seen and appreciated by visitors to Harewood House for years to come.”

Rebecca Pow, Heritage Minister said: “Thomas Chippendale is one of the most talented and gifted furniture makers the country has ever produced. I am delighted that, thanks to the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, these important works now belong to the British public and will remain on display, continuing to inspire the next generation of crafts people.”

Jane Marriott, Director, Harewood House Trust said: “As an Independent Charitable Trust and Arts Council Accredited Museum, we are delighted these objects have been gifted to the nation and that we have been able to agree an in-situ loan with the V&A. This will enable us to continue to share examples of one of Chippendale’s largest and finest commissions in this country, with all of our visitors throughout the year. These pieces were designed specifically for the Music Room in this house and are an integral part of an important decorative scheme designed by Robert Adam and Thomas Chippendale still largely intact today.”

Edward Harley OBE, Chairman, Acceptance in Lieu Panel said: “I am delighted that the Acceptance in Lieu scheme has facilitated the retention of these Chippendale pier tables and glasses in situ at Harewood House. Harewood represents one of the most important commissions of the most important furniture maker of the eighteenth century. I am particularly grateful to the V&A for enabling the pier tables and glasses to remain in Harewood House, the house for which they were designed and where they form part of an ensemble of other pieces of furniture from the same commission.”

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