The pier tables and mirrors dating from c.1771 were part of Chippendale’s most lucrative commission - the decoration of Harewood House in West Yorkshire for the West Indian plantation owner Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood. The four elements, that come by descent in the Lascelles family, will settle £5.6m of inheritance tax.
They will remain on display in the Robert Adam-designed Music Room at Harewood – the room for which they were originally created. The suite will undergo a programme of conservation by V&A to restore the surface finish closer to Chippendale’s original intention.
The pier tables (partially re-gilded largely on the carved elements) have marquetry tops inlaid with paterae and foliage on a rosewood ground and two-tone anthemion friezes centred by satyr masks. The towering 13ft 6in (4.12m) high rectangular glasses include broad anthemion frames, surmounted by fluted columns, scrolling acanthus and anthemion.
The Acceptance in Lieu scheme allows inheritance tax to be paid with the transfer of important cultural, scientific or historic objects to the nation - the initiative bringing over £330m worth of treasures into public ownership in the past decade. Harewood House is the seat of the Earl and Countess of Harewood (David and Diane Lascelles) and boasts one of the finest furniture collections in the country.
Auction house Christie’s heritage and taxation advisory service said it was “instrumental in the negotiation of this work to the nation”.