This morning, I have guided my group in the Met's exhibition 'Chippendale's Director: The Designs and Legacy of a Furniture Maker,' which comes to celebrate 300th anniversary to the birth of the most famous household name in the history of furniture. Chippendale is not a style; nor is it the heavy, carved mahogany furniture associated with the name. Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779) was a London cabinetmaker active during the 18th century and his book 'The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director' had come to change the course of history. The exhibition demonstrates that despite his immense fame in the UK, Americaa, and the Continent during his lifetime and later, Chippendale had never invented a style. He was a master in copying and branding, a genius promoter, and his book was a blockbuster and every level. What I found mostly interesting about the Met exhibition is the story behind the Museum's collection. It all started in 1920 when Curator of the Department of Prints William M. Ivins Jr. found that an auction held by Anderson Galleries in that year included a lot of two albums, consisted of a collection of 228 drawings. What the auction house lacked to know was that these were made by Chippendale and that most of them were the original drawings of his book. In short, still considered the most important set of English 18th furniture designs in existence, they were not described as such. The albums, together with hundreds of other drawings were acquired by New York dealer George D. Smith in London in the winter of 1919-20. He traveled toe the UK because this was a moment, following WWI, when many of the great libraries in the country houses were being sold off. But Smith died abroad ship en route home to New York, and his entire stock was consigned directly to the auction house. One error and one knowledgeable and energetic curator which put the foundation to building a collection of 18th century British architecture and ornaments, secondly only to the the V & A collection. Chippendale at 300 is celebrated in a variety of exhibitions and events the birth of the most famous name in the history of furniture.
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