Begin your Journey
In this digital trail, explore the Collection's many galleries and its outstanding array of eighteenth-century French art, iconic seventeenth- and nineteenth-century painting, and some of the finest medieval armour and weaponry found anywhere on public display.
The Wallace Collection houses the fantastic art collections brought together by the first four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace. It was bequeathed to the nation by Lady Wallace, Sir Richard’s widow, in 1897. In 1900, the Wallace Collection opened to the public for the first time - 2020 marks the Collection's 120th birthday.
From Frans Hals's Laughing Cavalier, to Fragonard's emblematic Swing, follow this trail as it reveals some of the greatest masterpieces of Hertford House...
The Dining Room
Jean-Baptiste Lepaute and François-Joseph Belanger, Mantel clock, 1781 (F269)
Supported by beautifully-modelled sphinxes and decorated with attributes of Venus, the goddess of love, this clock was probably made for Louis XVI’s youngest brother, the comte d’Artois, for the Pavilion of Bagatelle. Artois employed the most fashionable architects and designers, and although the house only took sixty days to build, it took four years to furnish. The clock is of superlative quality, revealed in not only the naturalistic texturing of the sphinxes’ bodies and wings, but also in the matt and burnished gilding which heightens the sumptuous effect, for example on the damask upholstery of the cushion. The clock was intended to sit on a chimneypiece in the Salon of the pavilion, where it harmonized with the arabesque decoration on the walls and the gilt-bronze firedogs in the fireplace.
Jean-Antoine Houdon, Bust of Madame de Sérilly, 1782 (S26)
Madame de Sérilly was a well-educated lady of high society. When Houdon carved this bust, the youthful model was at the height of her famed beauty, here enhanced by the turn of the head and the sensuous lock of hair falling on her bare shoulder. Always attentive to the psychological characterisation of his sitters, Houdon effectively conveys Mme de Sérilly’s personality: her intent gaze suggests a woman of intelligence, clearly aware of her beauty and status.
Nothing foreshadows the drama of her later years, marked by her husband’s bankruptcy, the Revolution, imprisonment, the deaths of her next two husbands and her eventual death at the age of thirty-six.
The State Rooms
The Back State Room
Jean-Baptiste Oudry, The Dead Roe, 1721 (P630)
This pastel-toned, large-scale painting is an early work by the French painter Jean-Baptiste Oudry. Like his Dead Wolf which hangs nearby, this work was likely inserted directly into the wood panelling of a dining room. It is fitting, therefore, that references to gastronomy abound in the form of signifiers of the noble privilege of the hunt in The Dead Roe or the remains of an elegant picnic in The Dead Wolf.
Oudry was known for his humane and moving portraits of animal subjects. His empathetic approach is conveyed by the dog who looks soulfully at the viewer to the right of The Dead Roe.
Antoine-Robert Gaudreaus and Jacques Caffieri, Chest-of-drawers, 1739 (F86)
The size and magnificence of this chest-of-drawers indicate that it was made for an important person and it was: it was supplied for Louis XV’s bedroom at the Palace of Versailles. At that time, it was in the forefront of the Rococo style, a fashion which was renowned for its asymmetry and swirling, dynamic lines and decoration. Designed and made by royal suppliers, it is veneered with geometric kingwood marquetry onto which elaborate gilt-bronze mounts have been applied. The effect, particularly in candlelight, would have been one of constantly flickering movement created by light and shadow. Louis XV kept it in his bedroom until he died thirty-five years later, at which point it was considered unfashionable by Louis XVI and was given to one of his grandfather’s courtiers.
Manufacture de Sèvres, Pot-pourri Vase and Cover, c. 1761 (C256)
This is perhaps the most celebrated of all vase models created by the Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory in the eighteenth century. It is designed to resemble a ship, with pierced rigging, portholes around the side, a bowsprit fore and aft and a pennant fluttering in the wind. The highly skilled modelling has been enhanced by the rich decoration: the deep blue and green ground colours, the brightly coloured birds and the gilding. It was intended as a pot-pourri vase and the upper part can be removed to fill the base with the scented petals, allowing pleasant smells to come out through the portholes and the rigging. There are only ten of these vases known in the world.
The Front State Room
Portraits of the Wallace Collection founders
When Sir Richard and Lady Wallace lived at Hertford House, the Front State Room was the formal reception room into which privileged visitors were shown on arrival. In this grand setting Sir Richard displayed royal and aristocratic portraits against crimson silk damask panels. Portraits here include founders of the collection — the marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace — together with some family members and monarchs whose reigns coincided with the formation of the collection between the mid-eighteenth and late nineteenth centuries. They range chronologically from Reynolds’s portraits of the daughters of the 1st Marquess, to Lawrence’s portrait of the 3rd Marquess of Hertford and Richard Symonds’ portrait of Sir Richard Wallace. As Prince of Wales (here by Hoppner), George IV was a regular visitor to Hertford House. The reigns of George IV and Queen Victoria (here by Sully) encompassed the marquisates of the 3rd and 4th marquesses and much of the lifetime of Sir Richard Wallace.
Sixteenth-Century Gallery / Smoking Room
Francesco Pomarano (Francesco di Giacomo da Sant'Agata), Hercules, c. 1520 (S273)
The inscription on the base reads: 'the work of Francesco, goldsmith of Padua'. Although Sant’Agata was a goldsmith, this wooden statuette is his most famous work, already celebrated in the sixteenth century. It was mentioned in Bernardino Scardeone’s history of Padua of 1560 which makes the piece exceptional as wooden sculptures were rarely documented in Renaissance sources.
Sir Richard Wallace, who acquired the statuette in 1871, was unaware of the identity of the sculptor and considered the inscription a mystery. The correct attribution was re-established at the end of Wallace’s life.
Andrea del Sarto, The Virgin and Child with the Infant Baptist, c. 1517–19 (P9)
Andrea del Sarto or ‘of the tailor’ (his father’s profession), was the leading painter in Florence in the early sixteenth century. He became known for grand compositions such as this one in which the standing Christ child holds a complicated pose, mid movement, his left arm outstretched to bless John the Baptist at the lower left. Although seen from the side and back, both Christ and John turn their heads to engage the viewer and draw them into the narrative. Mary supports Christ with her left hand, her body providing a pyramidal backdrop to the scene. Beautifully drawn and coloured, del Sarto carefully considered each of the figure’s muscles and bones, showcasing his mastery of human anatomy.
The Good Shepherd, Sri Lanka or Goa, c. 1600 (S50)
This figure shows Christ as the Good Shepherd, symbolising his care for and guidance of his flock. It belongs to a small group of rock crystal figures of the Christ Child produced in Goa and Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka). This Christian theme was introduced there by missionaries who accompanied Portuguese traders, and appealed to local people, who were accustomed to similarly seated images of the Buddha. Similar statues in ivory are known.
Works of art in rock crystal were desirable collectors' items in Renaissance Kunstkammern, the princely treasury collections that Sir Richard Wallace aspired to evoke.
Jean de Court, Limoges-enamel plaque with Marguerite de France as Minerva, 1555 (C589)
In this painted enamel portrait on copper, Marguerite de France, daughter of François I, king of France, is depicted as Pallas/Minerva, Classical goddess of war and wisdom. During the 1550s French writers saw Marguerite as the protectress of avante-garde literature at court and described her as the new Pallas, waging war on ignorance. As an inscription on the back tells us, the plaque was made by the enameller Jean de Court in 1555. It was produced in Limoges, in south central France, which was celebrated in the sixteenth century for its painted enamels fired onto a metal base, usually copper.
The Smoking Room
A pair of incense burners, China, Mid-Qing Dynasty, probably Qianlong period (1736–1795) (OA2367–78)
These spectacular pagoda-shaped incense burners are decorated with cloisonné enamel. Their decorative motifs include dragons, the character for longevity (shou), and various flowers and birds. They all have symbolic meaning. The Chinese believed that by surrounding themselves with auspicious symbols, their wishes would come true.
Incense was used in domestic, scholarly, religious and palatial contexts in China. It was commonly formed into sticks that were placed in beds of sand and burnt in vessels. Incense smoke would then escape through the holes. The forms of incense burners often derived from ancient bronzes. The lower part of this pair is known as a ding – a traditional, three-legged ritual vessel.
Workshop of Maestro Giorgio Andreoli, Dish, 6 April 1525 (C66)
This dish is a masterpiece of Italian Renaissance tin-glazed earthenware, known as maiolica. Depicting a group of women bathing in a marble pool set in a woodland glade outside a walled town, it was made, as the inscription on its back informs us, in Maestro Giorgio Andreoli’s workshop in Gubbio (Umbria) in 1525. The workshop was renowned for its iridescent metallic lustre, exemplified by the ruby and gold lustre seen here. The central scene is attributed to Francesco Xanto Avelli, a prolific maiolica painter. The exuberant grotesque border ornament is inspired by precedents from Classical Antiquity and inscribed ‘1525’.
Dagger of King Henri IV of France, French, Paris, c. 1599–1600 (A790)
King Henri IV is one of France’s most popular monarchs. His reign was distinguished by religious tolerance, remarkable in the wake of the religious wars of the sixteenth century.
When Henri married Marie de Médicis in 1600, this exquisite dagger was given to him as a wedding present by the City of Paris. It is covered in inlaid inscriptions and symbols. Much of the writing and imagery refers to King Henri himself, including the French royal lilies (fleurs-de-lys), the monogram Hs, and the arms of Navarre, Henri’s home territory. As befits a marriage gift, the dagger also carries the new Queen’s monogram, a double M.
The inlaid mother-of-pearl medallions are almost unique as a form of decoration. Each contains an image —some relate to the Order of the Holy Ghost, dedicated to the care of the sick, while others bear Christ’s pierced hand or the palm branch of Victory.
The East Galleries
East Gallery 1
Rembrandt van Rijn, Titus, The Artist's Son, c. 1657 (P29)
Titus van Rijn, shown here, was the only one of Rembrandt’s four children by his first wife Saskia to survive infancy. He appears to be about fifteen, which would place this painting in circa 1657. This was a troubled period for Rembrandt and his family. Only one year prior Rembrandt had been declared bankrupt and Titus and his stepmother Hendrickje Stoffels were required to administer the sale of the artist’s pictures. Perhaps this is the reason that Titus looks out at the viewer with such a troubled, vulnerable expression.
Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-Portrait in a Black Cap, 1637 (P52)
Rembrandt painted a number of self-portraits throughout his career. This representation of the artist in a black beret and fur coat, was painted on a panel that has been shown to be cut from the same tree as another self-portrait made in 1634 (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin). The Wallace Collection’s panel was cut down many years later, probably in around 1837, a little over a decade before it was acquired by the 4th Marquess of Hertford, when it was fitted in a frame with a semi-circular top. Originally the panel was probably rectangular and may have been up to 10 cm higher and 6 cm wider than it is now.
East Gallery 2
Etienne Levasseur, Cabinets, c. 1775 (F391-2)
André-Charles Boulle’s popularity extended well beyond his lifetime and by the second half of the eighteenth-century works by him and in his style were particularly prized by art connoisseurs. Although these two cabinets appear very similar to pieces made by Boulle early in the eighteenth-century, they are in fact made by Etienne Levasseur, a cabinetmaker who had trained with Boulle’s sons and who himself established a reputation for this type of marquetry. The cabinets incorporate hidden drawers behind the doors and at the sides, in which collectible objects such as medals would have been kept.
Aelbert Cuyp, The Avenue at Meedervoort, early 1650s (P51)
Cuyp, the maker of this view of a Dordrecht landscape touched by atmospheric evening light, is widely considered one of the finest landscape painters of the seventeenth-century. This precise, luminous painting shows a view across the river Maas. The medieval Groote Kerk — the largest church in the city — is clearly recognisable from afar. On the left, sits the castle of Meerdevoort. As the painting remained in the van Meerdevoort family until 1806, it may be possible to identify the little boys in the distance as Michel and Cornelis van Meerdervoort, then inhabitants of the castle.
Pieter de Hooch, A Boy Bringing Bread, c. 1663 (P27)
A transaction as humble as the delivery of food takes on a mysterious narrative charge in this serene painting. A little boy stands at a threshold offering a basket filled with rolls of bread to a well-dressed lady. Beyond them, the viewer catches a glimpse of a tiled courtyard, another dark interior, and farther still, a canal. In the distant background, one sees the ghostly outlines of another woman who seems to watch from afar. The artist Pieter de Hooch likely made this painting in the early 1660s, soon after his arrival to the city of Amsterdam from Delft.
East Gallery 3
Adriaen van de Velde, The Migration of Jacob, 1663 (P80)
In this highly original painting (taken from the Biblical text Genesis XXXI, 17–18), Jacob is shown fleeing from the house of his father-in-law Laban, accompanied by his wives, servants, and the livestock earned over the course of his many years of labour. The procession of humans, animals, and possessions forms an undulating line that gently guides the viewer’s eye into the landscape. This was an ambitious work for twenty-six year old landscape painter Van de Velde who is better known for small-scale pictures. It was acquired by the 4th Marquess of Hertford from the sale of Cardinal Fesch who also owned Poussin’s Dance to the Music of Time in The Great Gallery.
François Rémond, Table, 1785 (F317)
Some luxury goods dealers in Paris were extremely influential on the decorative arts in the latter half of the eighteenth-century. Not only did they sell rare and expensive objects, but often they designed works for their fashionable clientele and advised on interiors. This table was made by the founder and gilder, François Rémond, using designs provided by the celebrated dealer Dominque Daguerre. The gilt-bronze mounts are almost jewel-like in their quality, with playful interpretations of classical motifs including goats, crossed arrows and birds pecking at bunches of grapes. It is the beautifully-sculpted gilt-bronze female figures, however, cleverly supporting the table top in the manner of pillars supporting a Roman temple, that give the table its powerful presence and mark it out as an exceptional piece of neoclassical furniture.
The Great Gallery
Diego Velázquez, The Lady with a Fan, c. 1640 (P88)
Court painter to King Philip IV, Diego Velázquez created numerous iconic portraits of the Spanish royal family and high nobility. This is one of his most famous and enigmatic works. Long believed to represent a Spanish lady, recent studies have suggested that the sitter may in fact have been French. The only Frenchwoman known to have been painted by Velázquez was the duchess of Chevreuse. Although close to the queen of France, she made an enemy of the powerful Cardinal Richelieu and, in 1637, fled to Spain.
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Les hasards heureux de l'escarpolette (The Swing), c. 1767–8 (P430)
Breathtaking in its sense of freedom, movement, and romance, this is Fragonard's most famous work, and indeed, one of the most emblematic images of eighteenth-century art. Its genesis was reported by an eighteenth-century source. A prominent painter of religious scenes was initially approached by an unnamed nobleman to paint his young mistress on a swing. Not wishing to jeopardise his reputation, the religious painter refused but suggested Fragonard. The latter’s acceptance of this unconventional commission marked his decisive break away from the rarefied ‘official’ art world in favour of the freedom and personal choice afforded by the private art market.
Peter Paul Rubens, The Rainbow Landscape, c. 1636 (P63)
This panoramic view shows the countryside surrounding Het Steen, Rubens’s manor house where he spent his summers in semi-retirement, from 1636 until his death in 1640. Here, he observed the landscape at different times of day. In this case, the countryside throngs with animals and people still at work but the long shadows suggest that evening is approaching. The peaceful atmosphere is heightened by a rainbow. A spiritual symbol, its inclusion surely had significance for Rubens who had sought, in his diplomatic activities, to bring peace to the Netherlands.
Nicolas Poussin, A Dance to the Music of Time, c. 1634–1636 (P108)
Made in Rome for the future Pope Clement IX — the author of what may be the first comic opera — this painting shows group of figures moving to the music of Father Time. Perhaps they are the laurel-crowned Poverty, the weather-beaten Labour, the sleekly-clad Riches, and the seductive Pleasure turning in an endless circle, like the human condition. Or perhaps they are the four seasons, spinning relentlessly. Their exact meaning is almost beside the point. Ever since Poussin’s day, viewers have been captivated by these figures, caught in their eternal circle, still mysterious, still dancing.
Frans Hals, The Laughing Cavalier, 1624 (P84)
In this exuberant portrait, a dashing young man poses against a plain grey background. The painting is inscribed with the date (1624) and the sitter’s age (26). The work is unique in Hals’s male portraiture for its flamboyance and rich colour. Neither the identity of the sitter nor the function of the portrait has yet been firmly established. However the doublet he wears, embroidered with motifs of arrows, flaming cornucopia, and lovers’ knots in white, gold, and red thread, may suggest that this was painted on the occasion of a betrothal.
Ferdinando Tacca after Giambologna, Hercules overcoming the Centaur Eurythion, c. 1640-50 (S118)
This is one of two gilt-bronze groups forming a pair, representing two episodes from the Labours of Hercules, a popular mythological tale and a frequent subject for artists. In his quest for redemption, Hercules had to complete a series of tasks, or Labours. In one group we see him taking on the centaur Eurythion, while in the other he is wrestling Acheloüs, his rival for the hand of the beautiful Deianeira, who had turned himself into a bull to defeat Hercules. Both sculptures capture a single moment in the struggles with extraordinary animation, depicting the physicality of the fights and the raw strength of both participants. The gilding only serves to heighten the impact made by these magnificent sculptures.
Visored Bascinet, c. 1390-1410, probably French (A69)
This superb example of the armourer’s art is both beautiful and practical, designed to deflect attack from virtually every direction. It was not just the strength of the metal that protected the wearer – this type of helmet is actually relatively light – but its shape. The distinctive muzzle provided an excellent ‘glancing surface’, the pointed form making it difficult for incoming weapons to gain purchase. Besides its great rarity, this helmet is also prized as one of the world’s most romantic and evocative designs, an icon of the Hundred Years' War in Europe; helmets of this type almost certainly saw action at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.
Horace Vernet, The Arab Tale-Teller, 1833 (P280)
Painted immediately following his first trip to Algeria, The Arab Tale-Teller was Vernet’s first major work engaging with France’s military campaign in North Africa. The French invasion of Algeria took place just prior to the July Revolution of 1830 and extended into a bloody, protracted struggle to bring Algeria under colonial control. Over the course of four more trips, Vernet produced works that sought to legitimate the controversial conquest in the public’s eyes. This painting was exhibited in the Salon of 1834 alongside Delacroix’s first version of The Women of Algiers (Musée du Louvre, Paris).
Armour, late 18th century, Indian (OA1828)
This imposing figure comprises a rare and impressive Rajput armour from central India. It consists of a helmet, a ‘Coat of Ten Thousand Nails’ with long boots and shoulder-guards, vambraces to protect the forearms and a belt furnished with ammunition pouches. The main fabric of the armour is made of layers of textile faced with green velvet, studded with myriad small copper-gilt nails in a wavy pattern, and lined with a woven brocade. The coat is further reinforced with contoured plates made of watered steel and finely inlaid with gold decoration.