Rare 18th century clay figure attributed to Chitqua acquired by the Museum of London
8 September 2011
A rare clay figure of a London merchant, Thomas Todd, c. 1770, one of the few surviving works attributed to the Chinese artist Chitqua, has been acquired by the Museum of London with help from the Art Fund and MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. It will be one of only two known portrait works attributed to the artist on show in Britain.
Never before publicly displayed, the clay figure portrays Thomas Todd (b. 1726) – a late eighteenth-century London druggist and tea merchant of 70 Fleet Street. It is made from unfired clay held together by a bamboo armature and is painted in bright colours. It has no doubt survived because it has been retained in the Todd family over the generations.
Pat Hardy, Curator of Paintings, Prints and Drawings at the Museum of London, said: “It is very exciting to think that Thomas Todd met this Chinese artist, possibly in Fleet Street, and asked him to make his ‘likeness’ in clay. The features achieve a startling, almost photographic realism. Thomas Todd epitomised the kind of business acumen which ensured the growth of Britain’s industrial, mercantile and commercial empire in the eighteenth century. This figure will help the Museum of London explore important narratives in history, including London’s relationship with the outside world in terms of trade and empire.”
Chitqua was the only Chinese artist producing these kinds of clay figures who is recorded as working in Britain during the eighteenth century and there are no other records of British artists working with clay portraits in this manner.
The clay figure has been acquired by the Museum from Richard Todd, the great great great great grand nephew of Thomas Todd and will be on permanent display shortly in the Expanding City Gallery (1650-1850) in the Galleries of Modern London.
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Notes to Editors
1. For more information or images, please contact Kate Rosser on email@example.com / 020 7814 5502.
2. Museum of London, Museum of London Docklands and Museum of London Archaeology seek to inspire a passion for London. The Museums are open daily 10am – 6pm and are FREE to all.
3. The MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund is a government fund that helps regional museums, record offices and specialist libraries in England and Wales to acquire objects relating to the arts, literature and history. It was established at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in 1881 and continues to be part of its nationwide work. The annual grants budget, currently £600,000, is provided by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). Each year, the Purchase Grant Fund considers some 250 applications and awards grants to around 100 organisations, enabling acquisitions of over £3 million to go ahead. Visit the website: www.vam.ac.uk/purchasegrantfund
4. The Art Fund is the national fundraising charity, helping UK museums and galleries to buy, show and share art. It offers many ways of enjoying art through the National Art Pass which gives free entry to over 200 museums, galleries and historic houses across the country as well as 50% off major exhibitions. Over the past 5 years, the Art Fund has given £24 million to 248 museums and galleries to buy art. It also sponsors the UK tour of the ARTIST ROOMS collection – reaching several million people each year, and fundraises: recent campaigns include bringing in £6 million to save the Staffordshire Hoard for the West Midlands and Brueghel the Younger’s The Procession to Calvary for Nostell Priory. It is funded entirely by its 80,000 supporters who believe great art should be for everyone to enjoy. Find out more about the Art Fund and how to buy a National Art Pass at www.artfund.org.