The Medal Cabinet Appeal

Medal cabinet in the Egyptian taste, about 1810, Paris, after a design attributed to Charles Percier (1764-1813), © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Medal cabinet in the Egyptian taste, about 1810, Paris, after a design attributed to Charles Percier (1764-1813), © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  

Save this cabinet for the nation

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We urgently need your help to raise £534,000 to save this rare and remarkable medal cabinet from export.  

The government has placed a temporary export bar on the cabinet and we only have until July 2014 to acquire it and ensure its place in the national collections.

About the Medal Cabinet

This medal cabinet is perhaps the finest piece of French Empire furniture in Britain today. It is also a superlative example of the Egyptian taste that was fashionable throughout Europe in the period 1800-1815. Newly minted medals, of the sort this cabinet would have stored, were a significant element of Napoleon’s propaganda and used to commemorate his major achievements.

The silver mounts were made by the firm Martin Guillaume Biennais, whose signature is engraved on the lockplate. Biennais, who may have made the cabinet in its entirety, was goldsmith to the Imperial family. There are few works by Biennais in Britain; these are limited to smaller travelling cases or metalwork and certainly include nothing of this size, design-historical importance or quality.

The cabinet’s architectural form and craftsmanship are striking. Its rich amboyna wood is adorned with intricate figured veneers as a background to silver mounts of the highest quality. The design of inlaid bees on each individual drawer front, with hinged wings that flip forward to function as handles, are particularly sophisticated.

Help us Save this Object from Export

Due to open in early 2015, the V&A’s new Europe 1600-1800 Galleries would be an ideal permanent home for this object and we would like to exhibit it as part of a dedicated display on Napoleon. We have until July to purchase it and urgently need your help to secure its place in our collection.

Your donation, however large or small, will be crucial to ensuring this important acquisition is made in time.

The cabinet is currently on display in room 69, Whiteley Silver Galleries.

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Medal Cabinet Appeal Lecture

Antony Griffiths, former Keeper of Prints at the British Museum, joined us to give a special lecture on the central role that medals played in Napoleon’s Empire, and Christopher Wilk, Keeper of Furniture, Textiles and Fashion here at the V&A, explores the cabinet’s importance to the National Collection. See the full lecture here on Vimeo.

Donate by bank transfer

To make a donation to the V&A directly from your bank account, please contact appeals@vam.ac.uk

For any further information relating to the appeal, making a donation or Gift Aid, please contact Brodie Lyon on +44 (0) 20 7942 2790, or email appeals@vam.ac.uk

Read more about previous appeals at the V&A

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German Renaissance Medals - A Catalogue of the Collection in the V&A Museum (Hardback)

German Renaissance Medals - A Catalogue of the Collection in the V&A Museum (Hardback)

As the first book in English on German medals, the catalogue includes a full introduction to the subject, as well as thoroughly researched study of th…

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Event - Antony Griffiths, 'Writing history in medals: Napoleon, Denon and posterity'

Fri 06 June 2014 18:30

EVENING TALK: Antony Griffiths, former Keeper of Prints at the British Museum, will be giving a special lecture on the central role that medals played in Napoleon’s Empire.

Book online