The Wallace Collection
Manchester Square, W1
As gifts to the nation go, one of the finest and most generous must be the Wallace Collection - an exhibition of objects d'art so magnificent that it ranks as a miniature Louvre.
Once the private reserve of the Marquesses of Hertford, the collection is kept in their London home, Hertford House in Manchester Square, just a stone's throw away from Oxford Street.
Masterpieces from the hands of Titian, Rubens, Reynolds, Van Dyke and Canaletto line rooms filled with fine furniture and porcelain, all kept as if they were still for the personal pleasure of one family. In fact, part of the charm of visiting the Wallace Collection is the homey atmosphere that Hertford House retains. It has a character and warmth that is often lacking in purpose-built galleries.
Though the Wallace Collection is known by connoisseurs as 'London's best kept secret' it actually contains one of the best collections of French 18th century pictures, porcelain and furniture in the world as well as a wealth of 17th century art. Amongst this fine collection are such universally famous works as Frans Hals' Laughing Cavalier and Fragonard's The Swing. Also included is a display of arms and armour, particularly of oriental origin, to easily rival anything on show elsewhere.
These, and innumerable other treasures to be seen here, were gifted to the nation by Lady Wallace, widow of Sir Richard Wallace in 1897. Sir Richard was the son of the fourth Marquess of Hertford, who Thackerey immortalised as Lord Steyne in his Vanity Fair. The author also used Hertford House as his model for 'Gaunt House'.
A range of new galleries, educational facilities and a restaurant have recently been made available to visitors. These are the result of a £10.6 million project to extend and enhance the exhibition in celebration of the Wallace's 100th anniversary.
* A quiet and charming enclosed garden, featuring Parisian bronze urns and a fountain with a golden snake, can also be found here
The Wallace Collection is open Monday - Saturday 10 am - 5 pm. Sunday 2 pm- 5 pm except for Good Friday, May Day bank holiday and between December 24 - 26.
Free guided tours of the Collection are usually available on weekdays at 1 pm, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 11.30 am and Sundays at 3pm.
Entrance to the Wallace Collection is free, although visitors are urged to make a donation as the upkeep of the collection is completely dependent upon public contribution.
Bond Street (Central & Jubilee Lines)
Copyright © Jan Collie 2002
Published on Britannia by permission of the author.
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