Old Cape Furniture on Exhibition


A piece of antique furniture can cause various reactions. Certainly the initial reaction would be based on the aesthetics – the instinctive attraction or dislike. But being antique the next thought would probably be about the history of the piece.

With its commitment to the preservation of culture and heritage, not only did La Motte, in 2013, host a talk on Old Cape Furniture presented by acclaimed expert in South African cultural history, Professor Matilda Burden, but now, on the back of the release of her book, Ou-Kaapse Meubels – Studies in style (Old Cape furniture – Studies in styles), the La Motte Museum is hosting an exhibition of some prime examples of historic Cape furniture.

For those interested in the history and culture of the Cape, this exhibition aims at creating an understanding of the furniture, its historic reference to style and craftsmanship as well as the stylistic influences from Europe. Professor Burden emphasises, though, that furniture science is not just in the interest of academics: “Museum specialists have furniture collections that they are sometimes unable to identify or display correctly. Antique dealers sometimes lack the full understanding and knowledge of the pieces they trade with … and then there is the average person who inherited pieces or who admires furniture in general.” The publication of her research is, therefore, intended for this broader market aiming also to clear up any myths surrounding Old Cape furniture.

Professor Burden studied 3 500 furniture pieces and accessed over 150 sources in order to compile the book. Just as the book, the exhibition at La Motte focuses on only 14 case study furniture pieces that were made between 1660 and 1920, originally in the Cape and then further inland, and showcases various styles and sub-styles of furniture with a variety of decorative motives and techniques. The exhibition includes examples of the four main types of furniture – for sitting, working, storing and sleeping – as categorised in the book, with reference to their European stylistic origins and the way they were adapted at the Cape and transformed to a colonial style.

The exhibition at La Motte can be viewed during Museum hours from 09:00 to 17:00 from Tuesdays to Sundays.

For more information, please contact Eliz-Marié Schoonbee of the La Motte Museum at es.museum@la-motte.co.za or +27 (0)21 876 8850, or visit www.la-motte.com

Professor Burden’s book is a work of encyclopedic proportions and contains 436 pages, 1220 photographs in full colour and text of more than 80 000 words and is available from leading book stores and the La Motte Farm Shop.

Currently available in Afrikaans only: Ou-Kaapse Meubels – Studies in style

Hardcover with dust jacket

Glossy paper

436 pages

1220 photos

Full colour

ISBN 978-0-620-58650-4

Price: R560


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