The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, London

On Wednesday, June 16, Victoria towed husband Ed, just in from Heathrow, to the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square. It was just a short stroll from our apartment in George Street between Gloucester and Baker Streets. The Gallery has an excellent website.
Here is the description of Manchester Square from the London Open Squares Weekend: "A beautiful Georgian square with a fine collection of trees, shrubs and plants, first laid out between 1776 and 1788. A major replanting programme took place in 2006–8.

The square is named after the Duke of Manchester, who built a house (then called Manchester House) on the north side in 1777, attracted by the good duck shooting in the area. In 1797 the 2nd Marquess of Hertford acquired the lease and it became known as Hertford House.

 In the 19th century it was home to Sir Richard Wallace (1818–90), illegitimate son of the 4th Marquess, who displayed much of the Hertford family’s fabulous collection of fine and decorative arts here. In 1897 Lady Wallace left it to the nation as the Wallace Collection.

Hertford House today is a rare example of a London town house occupying the whole side of a garden square. A church originally planned for the centre of the square was never built."  My photo at left is of the grand staircase, installed in 1875. The Louis XV balustrade was made 1733-41 for the Bibliotheque du Roi in the Palais Mazarin in Paris, being sold as scrap iron when acquired for Hertford House. Imagine!

Some of the rooms still retain the look of an elegant town house.  I like combining fine furniture with great paintings and decorative objects (just what I do at home). The photos of the room with red walls are the Front State Room, which has portraits of royals and gentry.  On either side of the fireplace, the portraits are by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), on the left is Lady Elizabeth Seymour-Conway, and right, Frances, Countess of Lincoln.
In this view of the Front State Room, the portrait of Queen Victoria is reflected in the mirror. The portrait is by Thomas Sully (1783 - 1872) who went to America at age nine. He lived mostly in Philadelphia and died there. He made several trips to England where he painted some of the more than 2,000 portraits he recorded in his lifetime.

The portrait shows Victoria in her coronation robes, looking very young (she was nineteen) and lovely.
Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769 - 1830) painted this stunning portrait of
Margaret, Countess of Blessington, in 1822.  Margaret (1789–1849) led an interesting life, marrying twice. She was an intimate of the Count D'Orsay and a friend of Lord Byron.  She herself earned her living by writing for a time, but died in Paris, almost without funds.

John Hoppner (1758-1810) painted the Prince of Wales (later George IV) in 1792. In 1810, the Prince presented the portrait to the 3rd Marquess of Hertford, who held several court appointments and advised George on art. At the same time, the Marchioness of Hertford, mother of the 3rd Marquess,  was the Prince's favorite  mistress.

If all this sounds incredibly confusing, welcome to the complicated story of the Seymour-Hertford family, their fantastic town house, their incredible art collection, and their involved relationships! Read more here.

Henry Bone (1755-1834) executed this enamel on copper miniature of Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante after a portrait by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755 - 1842). It was commissioned by Sir William Hamilton in 1803.

Another elegant room full of treasures.  It is almost more than one can absorb.  this was at least my third visit here and I will keep coming back to discover more.

One of several Canalettos.  The furniture is brilliant, much of it by Boulle with details in bronze, marquetry and other materials that show incredible workmanship.  There is no admission charge but for a couple of pounds, you should rent the audioguide.

And  of course there is a wonderful gift shop to tempt you.  Since my last visit several years ago, some revisions have been made in the displays and they have opened a restaurant. And wonder of wonders, they also allow photographs in the galleries, as you can see.

In one of the galleries, there is such an abundance of famous paintings that I had to sit down and just gaze at them. Left, The Laughing Cavalier by Franz Hals, (c. 1580 – 1666)  one of the Wallace Collection's most admired works.
Gainsborough painted Mary Robinson as Perdita, the role she played in Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale. The Prince of Wales saw her on the stage and fell in love, his first rather public affair. Mary holds a miniature of him in her hand.  The story is quite sad. As you may remember, our friend and hostess Hester Davenport wrote Mary's Story and took us to see her grave in Old Windsor (see our post of July 18, 2010).

Ed and I had luncheon in the wonderful glassed over conservatory in the center of the building. Tea is also served later in the afternoon.  We wondered why this waiter was staring up at the ceiling.
When we looked up, we saw the window washer right over our heads. This is a job I could NEVER do, but I'm delighted someone can!!
A visit to The Wallace Collection is one of the best ways to spend a day -- or a half-day -- in London. The art is amazing and the scale is more human than some of the huge museums we love in the city but which can be so very exhausting. The Collection has a large group of armor and weapons on the ground floor, a treat for children. All in all, a highly recommended experience!

Labels: ,