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Sunday, 20 November 2016

A Treasure House

I can't think of a better pastime to brighten up a dreary November day (here in the UK at least) than looking through my photos from my last visit to the Wallace Collection at Hertford House in London.

Portrait of society beauty Nelly O'Brien by Joshua Reynolds
Beginning in the 18th century, the collection is the work of the Marquesses of Hertford. The first Marquess purchased works by Canaletto and Reynolds and was followed by his son who added to the collection with more works by Reynolds, as well as his rival portrait painter in fashionable circles, Romney, and fine examples of French furniture and art.

Miss Jane Bowles by Reynolds

The third Marquess, an unpleasant man who was mainly interested in leading a dissipated life did, fortunately for us, find time to collect more treasures, especially  the start of the collection's Dutch and Italian works, including a Titian and Rembrandt.

It was the fourth Marquess, however, who collected on a grand scale, adding magnificent examples of French furniture and works by French, Italian, Dutch and British artists. Among these are many of the highlights of the collection, for example The Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals and Fragonard's famous The Swing or as it's rather cheekily known, The Best View in the House.

 After the fourth Marquess's death, the collection, and much of his vast fortune, passed to his illegitimate son, Richard Jackson, whose name was eventually changed to Wallace. Richard Wallace, who was a philanthropist as well as a man of great taste, preserved and increased the collection, indulging his love of Renaissance and medieval art and his interest in armoury.

Medieval cup made of  crystal quartz

His widow then took charge and after her death, Hertford House became a museum. There, the richness of the collection is matched by impressive architecture and sumptuous interiors. A visit is a treat at any time of the year, and particularly as the dull days of winter advance.

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