The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Coffer
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • England
  • c. 1815
  • Carved, gilt and painted pine, pine lining, gilt bronze and crimson velvet
  • Object size: 71.5 x 114.5 x 58.5 cm
  • F473
  • Sixteenth Century Gallery
Further Reading
  • One of a pair of coffers (with F472) made for the collector and author William Beckford’s famous but short-lived Gothic folly Fonthill Abbey, built between 1798 and 1823. Probably made in London, they were recorded in the Sanctuary at Fonthill in 1823 but not in an earlier engraving of 1812. A description of the room, which had a carved and partly gilt oak ceiling ‘covered with a reticulation of lozenge work’, and walls covered in crimson damask, indicates how well they would have suited it. The general form of the coffers resembles that of Florentine cassoni, but with neo-Gothic ornament superimposed.
    Variously described later in their history as '16th-century Italian' and 'French, 17th-century from the Scots' College in France', they were sold by Beckford at the Fonthill Abbey sale of 1824 as robe chests of the time of James I (ruled 1603-23), a description which explains the rose and thistle motifs on the carving. This romantic royal provenance is typical of Beckford's collecting, although in this instance it was not true.