A talk by Stephen Duffy on January 11th.
Stephen began his very interesting talk by giving us the background to the Wallace Collection. It is a National Museum based in Hertford House in Manchester Square. It contains one of the best collections of arms and armour and unsurpassed displays of 18th. century French painting, furniture and porcelain, along with excellent Old Master paintings. The whole collection was bequeathed to Britain by the widow of Sir Richard Wallace in 1897.
The collection was begun by the 1st. Marquess of Hertford about 1760 when he acquired six paintings by Canaletto.
It was the second Marquess who acquired the lease of Hertford House in 1797, but the first of the Founders of the Wallace Collection to be a collector was the 3rd. Marquess. He was a good friend of the Prince Regent, and the Prince gave a portrait of himself as a gift to the 3rd. Marquess as a token of their friendship. The 3rd. Marquess bought many paintings including ‘The Lacemaker’ by Netscher
and Rembrandt’s ‘ Good Samaritan.’ He was also a major collector of 18th. and 19th. century French furniture and Sevres porcelain
The 4th. Marquess was brought up in Paris by his mother and returned there when he was 30. He became one of the richest men in Europe on the death of his father, and began seriously collecting in 1843. Amongst his purchases of Dutch paintings was Pieter de Hooch’s ‘Woman Peeling Apples ‘ (1663) and
In 1865 he bought the famous ‘Laughing Cavalier ‘ by Frans Hals for which he paid 51.000 FR (about £2040 in contemporary British money). At the time this huge amount caused an outrage. Possibly one of the reasons for the later fame of this painting was the beautiful costume and the sitter’s obvious self-admiration. Other purchases made by the Marquess included paintings by Rubens – ‘The Rainbow Landscape’ (1636). He also bought more than a dozen Canalettos including ‘ Venice the Grand Canal from the Palazzo Grandini’. He only purchased one Poussin –
One of his Spanish purchases was Velazquez ‘ Lady with a Fan ‘ (1640) . Paintings from his own time also featured prominently in his collection –
and Paul Delaroche’s ‘Cardinal Richelieu’ (1829) and ‘Cardinal Mazarin’ (1831) There was no outrage at the 80000Fr he paid for these paintings (compared to the reaction to the price of the Laughing Cavalier) as Delaroche was much admired. The 4th. Marquess tended to avoid the unpleasant in the art he bought, though occasionally he could surprise with his purchases. The Wallace collection also has the greatest collection of paintings by Boucher – e.g.’ The Setting of the Sun’ and ‘The Rising of the Sun’ (1752) . painted for Madame de Pompadour.
18th. century French furniture was bought in great number, e.g. a rococo piece by Antione –Robert Gaudreaus (c1740)made for Louis xv’s bedchamber at Versailles , pieces of Sevres porcelain and a chest of drawers which came from the chamber of Louis xiv – though the Marquess didn’t know this at the time of purchase..
The 4th. Marquess never married, but had a son – Richard Jackson –(later changed to Richard Wallace) – as a result of an affair with Mrs. Agnes Jackson. He became the 4th. Marquess’s aide and confidante and on his deathbed he bequeathed all his collection and wealth to Richard. Richard brought over much of the collection from Paris to Hertford House in London. Richard was a great philanthropist (unlike his father ) and was subsequently knighted. He added to the collection .
Clocks are also quite a feature at the Wallace Collection as well as Oriental and European arms and armour. Wallace collected the European arms and armour to complement the Oriental arms and armour acquired by his father. A notable of English armour acquired by Wallace was the Field Armour of Lord Buckhurst (1588) Richard also purchased other Mediaeval and Renaissance works of art very different from the collections of the 4th. Marquess.
Richard added little to the collections in the last 15 years of his life and on his death in 1890 he bequeathed all his property to his wife who on her death 7 years later, followed his wishes in bequeathing the contents of the ground floor and first floor of Hertford House British Nation as the Wallace Collection. It opened as a National Museum in 1900.