Chitqua replica of 18th century businessman Thomas Todd acquired by Museum of London

By Culture24 Reporter | 08 September 2011
  • Archived article
A photo of a clay figure of an 18th century man's head
Chitqua, Thomas Todd (circa 1770)
© Museum of London
A “startling” clay figurine of a leading British entrepreneur made on request by a little-known Chinese street artist more than 300 years ago will become a central exhibit at the Museum of London.

Druggist and tea merchant Thomas Todd is thought to have asked Chinese craftsman Chitqua to depict him in about 1770. Made from brightly painted, unfired clay held together by a bamboo armature, the tiny doppelganger has never been publically displayed before, having been retained by Todd’s family for centuries.

A photo of a man looking at a figurine of an 18th century gent on a table
Previous owner Richard Todd takes a look at his great great great great grand uncle© Museum of London
“It is very exciting to think that Thomas Todd met this Chinese artist, possibly in Fleet Street, and asked him to make his likeness in clay,” speculated Pat Hardy, the Curator of Paintings, Prints and Drawings at the museum, which has bought the piece from Todd’s great great great great grand nephew.

“The features achieve a startling, almost photographic realism. Thomas Todd epitomised the kind of business acumen which ensured the growth of Britain’s industrial, mercantile and commercial empire in the 18th century.

“This figure will help the Museum of London explore important narratives in history, including London’s relationship with the outside world in terms of trade and empire.”

Chitqua is the only clay figure artist recorded as working in Britain at the time. His work will go on permanent show in the Expanding City Gallery in the Galleries of Modern London.
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