The Toms Collection

The Toms Collection is one of the most important ancient tapestry collections privately assembled during the second half of the twentieth century. Bequeathed to the State of Vaud by Mary Toms in 1993, it comprises more than one-hundred wall tapestries and decorative tapestry pieces, representing major early sixteenth- to late nineteenth-century European manufactories.

In 1958, having amassed a fortune in real estate, the English property developer Reginald Toms (1892-1978) and his wife Mary (1901-1993) settled in the Château de Coinsins, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. They discovered a passion for ancient tapestries and, in the sixties, made the acquisition of some one hundred pieces.

More than fifty of the tapestries in the Toms Collection were woven in the workshops of Flanders, mostly in the Baroque period and the eighteenth century. Beautiful tapestries from English, Italian and French workshops, as well as English embroidered pieces, complete this prestigious ensemble which is noteworthy not only for its geographical, chronological and thematic diversity, but also for its remarkable condition.

Since the 1994-2002 restoration campaign conducted by Manufacture royale De Wit, in Mechelen, Belgium, the treasures of the Toms Collection have been admired at the Abbey of Payerne, Switzerland, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lausanne, the Palacio Real in Madrid, the Cité de la Tapisserie in Aubusson, and the Musée Rath in Geneva”

But for me the most interesting part of the Toms story is that Reginald and his wife Alice Mary were extremely good at collecting Persian carpets and they lived in South Africa from 1947 selling cold harbor wood and bought General Botha’s house in 1952 in Standerton where they bred horses. I assume they were buying great antiques and Persian carpets while residing in South Africa or maybe they bought the house of General Botha with furniture and carpets included.

Later on they moved to America and then settled in Switzerland. After the death of Reginald in 1995 Sotheby’s sold most of the carpets including this Northwest Medallion carpet (this carpet sold for £42200 with warp depression, 3 shoots of wefts, Asymmetrical open to left) to get funds for restoring the tapestry collection. The entire collection was moved to a small museum after the death of his wife.

Was this carpet once in General Botha’s house in South Africa? On 24 Oct 2007 the carpet once again came to Sotheby’s and sold for only £23300. Such a low price for such a rare carpet belonging to a rare category very similar to Medallion carpet of Calouste Gulbenkian foundation. A 16th century badge is definitely well deserved for this carpet.