The Wallace Collection: an Anglo-French Inspired Art Collection Museum worth Visiting
Art is to London what Bonnie is to Clyde; it’s inextricably intertwined with the city’s culture. For instance, everywhere you go in East London, you’ll find incredible, immersive art scenes inspired by the past and nodding to the future.
In hippie neighborhoods like Shoreditch, you’ll find awe-inspiring graffiti-covered walls and buildings. At the same time, if you head west to Marylebone, a collection of the finest noble art to ever grace the land, at the Wallace Collection Museum. Read on for more details on the Wallace Collection.
A Brief History of the Wallace Collection
The Wallace Collection is a fine and decorative art museum from the 14th to the 19th centuries. The museum is housed in the three-storied Hertford House, a 17th-century townhouse owned by the Marquesses of Herford back in the day.
The collection began with the 1st marquee of Hertford. The marquee acquired paintings from notable artists in the 17th century like Canelatoo and commissioned some of his daughters’ paintings. The marquee passed on the collection to the 2nd and 3rd marquees, who added artworks by Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, and other renowned artists of their time.
The 4th marquee, Captain Richard Seymour Conway, was a dedicated art collector and the key reason why the Wallace Collection exists today. His collection was vast and includes old master paintings, 18th century Dutch and Flemish paintings, furniture, Sevres porcelain, gold snuffboxes, and works by legendary artisans like Titian, Caspar Netscher, and Anthony Van Dyck.
The captain left both the collection and the house to Sir Richard Wallace, his illegitimate son, who then passed it on to his wife, an art collector, Lady Wallace. Lady Wallace bequeathed the entire collection to the nation, laying the foundation for what we know today as the Wallace Collection.
The marquesses of Hertford were among Europe’s wealthiest families in the 19th century. They owned vast properties throughout the continent and expanded their territories through marriage. So it’s no surprise that Sir Richard Wallace, and his illegitimate son ended up with a collection of more than 5000 fine art pieces.
The Wallace Collection Today
The Wallace Collection is distributed on all three floors of the Hertford House, with each exhibition dedicated to a specific form of art. The hall on the ground floor pays homage to its original inhabitants and the principal founders through marble bursts and retains most of its original architecture and design. The back stateroom features rococo style art and pays patronage to Ling Louis XV and his mistress, while the dining room is all about 18th-century French art. For medieval and renaissance works of art, head over to the smoking-room. If fascinated by renaissance arms and armor, ensure you explore European Armoury I to III on the ground floor. Although the museum boasts an entirely intriguing collection, here are some of the masterpieces you don’t want to skip:
- The Swing by Jean Honere Fragonard
- The 16th Century Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals
- A collection of French bronze sculptures by Giambologna
Know before you Go
The Wallace Collection opens daily from 10 am to 5 pm and is often free to enter. There’s a glamorous French-style restaurant in the courtyard serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and on weekends, dinner under the stars with a la carte menu.
The Wallace Collection address: Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN
Contacts: 0207, 563, 9500