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The Wallace Collection

Thursday 14th April 2016

On a sunny Thursday, we made a trip to The Wallace Collection, located in the splendid Hertford House in Manchester Square.  We were aware of the history of this national museum from the lecture given to us by Stephen Duffy in March, but I must say that I found the Collection much more interesting than I expected from his talk.

Before our guided tour, we were offered refreshments in the Restaurant – a courtyard setting which had been converted by means of a glazed roof, resulting in a light and airy setting.  The coffee was excellent as well!

Having been divided into two groups, we were then given a tour by a volunteer guide; in our case Gabrielle, who proved to be wonderfully enthusiastic and well informed.  She concentrated on the 18th Century art and artifacts, including works by Canaletto, Watteau, Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds, and Sevres porcelain, French furniture and gilt bronzes.

Of course we saw Frans Hals’ The Laughing Cavalier, Fragonard’s The Swing, and Rembrandt’s Self Portrait, and the painting of Titus, his son.  However, in general, I was amazed at the range of fabulous art in the Collection, which I had not anticipated.  I include in this the porcelain, the miniatures, and some of the furniture – and the candelabra!

After lunch, when we were free to spend a couple of hours at our own discretion, we decided to revisit the Collection.  At this point, I persuaded my wife to accompany me to see The Armoury, and it proved a worthwhile choice.  The display was magnificent, from full coats of armour, to beautiful rapiers and daggers, and splendid helmets.  Surprisingly to me, some of it stemmed from India and Persia, which I had not associated with martial culture.  The Medieval and Renaissance Arms and Armour were as expected, emanating from Europe, but even then, I was surprised by the stunning Italian examples.

We returned safely, just ahead of the rush hour traffic, having experienced a satisfying day, full of surprises to me.  Thanks as ever to Gwen for her organisation skills, which were as good as ever.

Text by Philip Akroyd

Photos by Jonathan Cross

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The Wallace Collection

Members pose together on the Grand Staircase