c.1770 commode
The c.1770 commode was commissioned by Charles Townley (1737-1805) and has been sold to Leeds Museums & Galleries by Thomas Coulborn & Sons.

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The commode, dating to c.1770, will go on display at the Tudor-Jacobean Temple Newsam in Leeds.

It was commissioned by antiquarian and collector Charles Townley (1737-1805) of Townley Hall near Burnley in Lancashire. 

Townley, whose collections later became the core of the Graeco-Roman section of the British Museum, sourced the hardstone and lava top for the table from one of his Grand Tours.

The design for the neo-classical panels came from Townley’s personal copy of Le Antichità di Ercolano (the eight-volume book of engravings of the findings from excavating the ruins of Herculaneum).

Jonathan Coulborn from Thomas Coulborn & Sons, of Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, said: “This striking commode is a particularly apt object to celebrate the spirit of the British Antique Dealers’ Association.

"The piece of furniture was born from Charles Townley’s love of antiquity and desire to own a beautiful object, incorporating not only the designs, but even the materials of the archaeological discoveries that fascinated the Grand Tourists of his time.”

The acquisition was funded by The Leeds Art Fund. Mark Westgarth, chair of the fund, said it was “absolutely delighted to support the acquisition of the Townley commode” by using funds from the Hurst Bequest to be “able to ensure that this highly important object is accessible to the public”.

Adam Toole, curator at Temple Newsam, added: “Its craftsmanship and unique design are extraordinary, but so too are the opportunities the commode will present for our visitors. Being so imbued with the personality of Charles Townley and the spirit of the Grand Tour, it will cast light on Temple Newsman’s already fine late 18th century collections in exciting new ways.”

Prior to Coulborn owning the commode it had been sold on numerous occasions over the past century: most recently at Christie's New York when it took $200,000 (£145,000) - including buyer's premium - on March 30, 2021. It was sold from The Collection of Mrs Henry Ford II: Palm Beach. Henry Ford II had previously purchased it at Phillips of Hitchin in October 1957 (for £2750).

Before that it was with furniture dealer Partridge in London. It had been owned by the Townley and Towneley-O'Hagan families through the centuries until first sold by the 3rd Baron O'Hagan (1882-1961) at Christie’s in London in June 1939. 

BADA Week, a nationwide initiative of events and exhibitions, ran from October 11-17.