Conservation expert James Hardie working on the bookcaseImage copyright Dumfries House
Image caption The bookcase was waxed by Edinburgh-based expert James Hardie

Conservation work has been completed on an 18th Century bookcase which is believed to be worth £20m.

The piece is kept in the drawing room at Dumfries House in Ayrshire.

The padauk bookcase forms part of what is claimed to be the largest authenticated collection of Chippendale’s early work anywhere in the world.

A series of events are taking place to mark the 300th anniversary of the furniture-maker’s birth.

The bookcase had been set to go under the hammer at auction 10 years ago, when potential bids were estimated at the £20m figure.

But Prince Charles helped retain the piece as part of a 50-piece Chippendale collection when his charitable foundation stepped in to save Dumfries House and the surrounding estate in 2007.

Image copyright Dumfries House
Image caption Curator Janet Casey said the piece is “the only one of its kind”

The bookcase is the most complex piece in the house’s collection and was designed for additional use as a clothes press and writing bureau.

The 5th Earl of Dumfries bought it for the house in 1759.

The purchase price was £47 5s.

Dumfries House curator Janet Casey said: “The examples of glazing, carving, in-laying, and joinery are what makes this bookcase particularly impressive and appealing to visitors to Dumfries House.

“It is an important piece as it is the only one of its kind and being the key piece of the largest authenticated collection of Chippendale’s early work.

“Of the 600 authenticated Chippendale pieces of furniture in the world, 10% is part of the Dumfries House collection.

“Chippendale did not sign or mark his work as his, meaning the only way to truly authenticate the pieces is by proof of purchase. Luckily the invoices for the Chippendale Dumfries House purchases still exist, listing the price and purchase dates of each of the pieces.”

‘Untouched collection’

She added: “The care of these types of pieces is very important as such renowned designs from an untouched collection need to be preserved in order for it to live on to be celebrated for a further 250 years and more.”

A number of Chippendale pieces are being loaned to an exhibition at Leeds City Museum marking the tricentenary.

They include a butler’s tray, a drawing room armchair and a fire screen decorated with a depiction of a parrot.

The exhibition opens on 9 February.

Adam Bowett, chairman of the Chippendale Society, said: “The Chippendale Society is delighted that Dumfries House will be playing a major part in the celebrations, with its own programme of events throughout the year and as a lender to the Chippendale 2018 exhibition at Leeds City Museum.

“Dumfries House holds one of the most important Chippendale collections in the UK and the year begins in a most fitting way with this careful cleaning of the celebrated rosewood bookcase made for the Earl of Dumfries in 1759.”

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