Tate Britain in Pimlico is built on the site of a former prison, the Millbank Penitentiary. In 1892 it was chosen as the site for the new National Gallery of British Art, which would be under the Directorship of the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. Sidney R.J. Smith was chosen as the architect for the new gallery. His design is the core building centred by a grand porticoed entranceway and central dome.The gallery opened its doors to the public in 1897, displaying 245 works in eight rooms from British artists dating back to 1790.
Since then, the gallery has had seven major building extensions. In its first 15 years the Millbank site more than doubled in size, including the addition of seven rooms designed by the architect W.H. Romaine-Walker and funded by the arts and antique dealer J.J.(Sir Joseph) Duveen, built to display the Turner Bequest. It is from this initial extension that this doorcase – now re-formatted by LASSCO as a fireplace – was built.
The doorcase survived at Millbank through all the successive subsequent extensions and alterations, up until the most recent. The distinctive green marble is found still, running through many of the Duveen galleries in the surviving grand doorcases and dado panelling.
Joseph Duveen is a revered figure in the art world – he revolutionised Art Dealing, practically re-invented the market in Old Masters and introduced and guided the wealthy industrialists of the early 20th Century in the art of forming a considered collection of Works of Art. He became fabulously wealthy in the process and himself became an extraordinary philanthropist – as remembered in the carved tablet on this piece. The chimneypiece is available either with the carved tablet on display, or reversed (as pictured) with the incised lettering and date flipped and concealed – according to the buyer’s preference.