Rare Whistler cabinet bought for Scotland

A magnificent maple cabinet painted by James Abbott McNeill Whistler has been bought by National Museums Scotland with support from the Art Fund.

Edward William Godwin and James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Harmony in Yellow and Gold - The Cloud Cabinet, 1877-1878

Whistler gave the cabinet its unusual title, Harmony in Yellow and Gold – The Cloud Cabinet; as with his paintings, he named the design after musical forms and colours. It was manufactured by William Watt Art Furniture in around 1878, with Whistler adding the painted ornaments and his distinctive butterfly signature.

Created in the Anglo-Japanese style associated with the Aesthetic Movement, the cabinet is crafted from bird's eye maple and brass. The decorations consist of intricate carvings – floral, bird and geometric motifs inspired by the art of Japan – and painting, with stippled clouds and golden butterflies.

The cabinet was almost certainly created for William Watt's stand at the 1878 Exposition Universelle in Paris. Surviving Godwin furniture from the late 1870s is very rare, and Whistler's decorations make this cabinet unique.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: 'We are delighted to support the acquisition of this outstanding cabinet, unique in the history of European design. It will be a spectacular and important addition to the museum’s collections, providing a link between their Japanese works and those of modern and contemporary art and design.'

The Cloud Cabinet will be one of the centrepieces of the National Museum of Scotland's 'Designed for Life' gallery, which will open in 2016 exploring European and American design, and the applied arts from 1851 to 1951.

Venue details

National Museum of Scotland Edinburgh EH1 1JF

Entry details

50% off with National Art Pass

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