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Culture Minister defers export of an exceptional George II medal cabinet known as The Brand Cabinet

13 December 2012

Museums and Libraries

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on a rare wall-mounted ivory cabinet. Known as The Brand Cabinet, it was made for Thomas Brand MP around 1750, and is a rare example of 18th century furniture, combining fine woods and ivories. This export bar will provide a last chance to raise the money to keep the cabinet in the United Kingdom.

The Brand Cabinet is an important George II ivory mounted padouk medal cabinet, and represents an early and outstanding example of the increasing respect and seriousness shown for the antique and classical world in its time.

Thomas Brand MP was a collector of classical antiquities and member of the Society of Dilettanti. The design is similar to that of a cabinet made in 1743 for Brand’s close friend, Horace Walpole, son of the first British Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole. Like Walpole, Brand went on Grand Tours of Europe in the mid-18th century. He is likely to have gathered the ivories on the Brand Cabinet during one of his two visits to Italy.
The Walpole Cabinet and The Brand Cabinet share a unique design, with no other wall-mounted ivory decorated cabinets known to exist. While both are splendid objects, the Brand Cabinet is considered to exhibit a purer architectural form.

The Minister’s ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, administered by Arts Council England. The Committee recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the cabinet was of outstanding aesthetic importance and of outstanding significance for the study of English furniture in the eighteenth century.

Simon Swynfen Jervis, Reviewing Committee member, said: “The Brand Cabinet, outstanding due to its exquisite craftsmanship and design, is a key document for English 18th century collecting. There is only one parallel in the world – that being the Walpole Cabinet, held at the V&A – which is at once both complementary and contrasting.”

The decision on the export licence application for the cabinet will be deferred for a period ending on 12 February 2013 inclusive. This period may be extended until 12 June 2013 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds is expressed with a view to making an offer to purchase the cabinet at the recommended price of £1,250,700 (inclusive of VAT; but please note that any institution which is able to reclaim VAT would need to match £1,217,250 plus VAT at 20%, the latter of which could be reclaimed).

Notes to editors

  1. Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the cabinet should contact:
    The Secretary
    The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest
    Arts Council England
    Great Peter Street
    SW1P 3NQ
    Tel: 0845 300 6200

  2. Anyone interested in making a matching offer and who requires further information about the cabinet from the Champion should contact The Secretary to the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest at the above address.

  3. For enquiries on the operation of and casework arising from the work of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA) please contact the Enquiries team on or 0845 300 6200.

  4. The details of the cabinet are:
    A George II ivory-mounted padouk medal cabinet, design attributed to Horace Walpole, execution attributed to William Hallett, c.1743.
    134cm high, 92cm wide, 21 cm deep.

    Made for Thomas Brand of the Hoo, Herefordshire, 1743-1750.
    By descent to Viscount Hampden, The Hoo. Christies London, 20 October, 1938, lot 72, bt Harper.
    Christie’s London, the Property of a Lady, 27 November 1980, lot 24, bt RA Lee, thence to Henry Philips and a private owner.
    Christie’s London, The Exceptional Sale, 5 July 2012, lot 5, £1,217,250:

  5. The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest is an independent body, serviced by Arts Council England, which advises the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object, intended for export, is of national importance under specified criteria. Where the Committee finds that an object meets one or more of the criteria, it will normally recommend that the decision on the export licence application should be deferred for a specified period. An offer may then be made from within the United Kingdom at or above the fair market price.

  6. Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2011 and 2015, we will invest £1.4 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.