This cabinet is the result of an artistic collaboration between one of the most significant British designers of the 19th century and one of the greatest painters of the American Gilded Age.

Designed by Edward William Godwin, a leading figure in the Aesthetic Movement, and painted by the Anglo-American artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler, the Cloud Cabinet is the only known piece of furniture made by the two to survive in its original state. It was manufactured by William Watt Art Furniture of London and features both William Watt’s label and Whistler’s distinctive butterfly signature. Created in the Anglo-Japanese style associated with Aestheticism, 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. Surviving Godwin furniture from the late 1870s is very rare, and Whistler’s decorations make this cabinet unique. It was almost certainly created for William Watt’s stand at the 1878 ‘Exposition Universelle’ in Paris. Whistler gave the piece its unusual title: as with his paintings, he named his design works after musical forms and colours. Harmony in Yellow and Gold – The Cloud Cabinet will be one of the centrepieces of the National Museum of Scotland’s ‘Designed for Life’ gallery, opening in 2016 and exploring European and American design and the applied arts from 1851 to 1951.

Artists include


Probably acquired by the Hussey Packe family directly from William Watt; sold 1947; when acquired by Arnold Grey; by descent in the Grey family, from whom acquired by the vendor.

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