Rare 18th-century figure bought by the Museum of London

  • 8 September 2011

A 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 with help from the Art Fund.

Figure of Thomas Todd, c. 1770 © Museum of London

Figure of Thomas Todd, c. 1770

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 bought by the Museum of London with help from the Art Fund.

The work

Never before publicly displayed, the clay figure portrays Thomas Todd – a late 18-century London druggist and tea merchant of 79 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. Thomas Todd epitomised the kind of business acumen which ensured the growth of Britain’s industrial, mercantile and commercial empire in the 18 century.”

The artist

Chitqua is the only Chinese artist producing these kinds of clay figures who is recorded as working in Britain during the 18 century and there are no other records of British artists working with clay portraits in this manner.

The purchase

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.

Find out more about the Figure of Thomas Todd.