London is brimming with museums, with your choice of the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum and many others, but there was one smaller one I was very keen to visit.
Nestled in the streets of Marylebone you will find Hertford House, and set within it’s beautiful walls you will find a permanent collection that certainly won’t disappoint.
It was once the home to the Marquesses of Hertford, otherwise known as the famous Seymour family, and the last two generations of the family were keen art collectors. The 4th Marquess, Richard Seymour-Conway, bequeathed the house to his illegitimate son Sir Richard Wallace, who also had an interest in collecting, like his father, and after Wallace’s death, the house and its extensive collection was bequeathed to the nation by his widow. Now called the Wallace Collection, it has been open to the public since 1900 and it is place where one can see an extensive and lavish collection of notable paintings, furniture, armament and porcelain. Wallace and his father were highly connected to Paris and France during their lives and became passionate about purchasing much of the art from across the Chunnel and bringing it back to London. Because of this, the Wallace Collection is prized for being one of the most extensive collections of French Rococo style in Britain today.
The rooms are immaculately presented and luxurious to the eye; the paintings vibrant and eye-catching, and the ambience quiet, relaxing and a wonderful solitude, where you can soak up some history, culture and art on your travels, or just on a weekend out.
The French Rococo movement formed during the earlier years of the 18th century, as a late Baroque style. It appeared during the reign of King Louis XV and was encouraged by his famous mistress Madame de Pompadour (whose portrait you can find in the collection). The interior decoration in the Rococo movement played with pastel colours, nature, dense ornamentation, gilding, and incredible artistry which can be found in framing for paintings and mirrors, elegant curved, or inlaid furniture, and beautiful porcelain work, along with the choice of wall colour and decoration. What’s more, the movement encouraged a playful, witty and flirtatious approach to subject matter in art, all framed within beautiful natural landscapes. Within the Wallace Collection you will find some of the most quintessential and famous examples of Rococo art, which, if you’re anything like me, makes you rather excited.
‘The Swing’ by Jean-Honoré Fragonard
‘A Boy as Pierrot’ by Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Further beautiful artistic masterpieces of other countries and eras can be found in the Great Gallery.
There, and scattered throughout the various galleries, you will find works by the great masters such as Van Dycke and Rembrandt, among many others. The house is a treasure trove of masterpieces, for those who know and are keen to find them.
‘Titus, the Artist’s Son” by Rembrandt
Downstairs on the lower ground floor the collection continues with an array of armoury, guns and weapons in wonderful condition.
And after all the exploring, one can rest up in the beautiful bright brasserie Peyton and Byrne, set within the house’s glass-roofed courtyard. They are there, serving an array of options, for all times of day and all types of appetite.
(Photo from Peyton and Byrne)
A perfect way to finish off your day!
The Wallace Collection is a national museum and opened from 10am-5pm each day. Entrance is free, which I utterly love and respect about all of London’s museums, and be sure to ask about the free tour, if you’re interested in knowing the collection more extensively.
It was a lovely highlight to my adventure through London and I am thoroughly glad to have gone out of my way to find it…and if you’re in town, you should too!