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We are the world's first purpose-built public art gallery.
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Furniture

Although the Gallery is primarily known for its paintings, an accompanying collection of furniture has also been on display in Soane’s building since it opened to the public in 1817.

The core of the furniture collection was donated by Margaret Desenfans (1731-1813), one of the Gallery's original founders, and came to the Gallery from her house in Charlotte Street, London (now Hallam Street), which she had shared with the two other founders; her husband Noël and the painter Sir Francis Bourgeois RA. Little is known as to where or how the three acquired their collection of primarily French and English 18th-century domestic pieces, but it is thought to have been gradually accumulated over the many years they lived together. Bourgeois had included the furniture in his bequest of works of art to be kept ‘for the inspection of the public’, and a few years later Margaret stipulated in her will that the furniture should be ‘placed and preserved’ with the pictures, indicating that the founders saw their furniture as an important accompaniment to the paintings. Continuing this idea, Sir Henry Yates Thompson – who served as Chairman of the Gallery Committee from 1908-19 – donated another set of furniture to the Gallery in 1928.  The bulk of both legacies can still be found in the Gallery today.

 

A set of ten Oval Backed Chairs, French, c.1780, F1

Boulle-work Desk, French, c.1670s with later additions, F2

Boulle-work Desk, French, c.1670s with c.1760s replacements, F3

A Pair of Empire-style Console Tables, c.1810, F4

Bombé Commode in the French Taste, English, c.1768, F5

English Serpentine Commode, English, c.1768, F6

Side Table in the style of Robert Adam, English, c.1770, F7

Mantel Clock, French, c.1725, F8

Two Ebonised Window Seats, English, c.1811, F9

Two Ebonised X-frame Stools, English, c.1811, F10

Rococo Commode, German, c.1750, F11

Red Lacquer Chest on Stand, Japanese Meiji, c.1870s, F12

Harlequin Table, English, c.1745, F13

Marquetry Table, Dutch, 17th century, F14

Marquetry Table, Dutch, 19th century, F15

Walnut Table, Spanish, 19th century, F16