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

  

Saved for the nation

We are delighted to have raised £534,000 in time to save this rare and remarkable medal cabinet from export. 

The government placed a temporary export bar on the cabinet and we only had 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.

Saved from Export

Your donations, however large or small, were crucial to helping us make this important acquisition in time and ensure that the medal cabinet remains in the UK. Thank you to everyone who supported us.

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 plan to exhibit it as part of a dedicated display on Napoleon.

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.

Read more about previous appeals at the V&A

Supported by the Art Fund, the Friends of the V&A, Stephen and Anne Curran, the American Friends of the V&A, the Gilbert Trust for the Arts, Dr. Susan Weber*, The Leche Trust, the Audrey Love Charitable Foundation*, the Gilbert Public Arts Foundation Trust*, The Furniture History Society, The Society of Dilettanti Charitable Trust, The Cahn Family Foundation*, Nicholas and Lady Goodison’s Charitable Settlement, and many other donors.
 
*These donations were made possible by the American Friends of the V&A.

National Heritage Memorial Fund

 

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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