Tucked away from the crowds of Oxford Street in leafy Manchester Square, a grand former French embassy now houses one of London’s lesser-known art galleries. The Wallace Collection, located in Hertford House on the north side of the square, contains the art riches of the first four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the philanthropic son of the 4th Marquess. Its collection of European paintings is particularly strong, with perhaps its most famous canvas being Franz Hals’ The Laughing Cavalier from 1624. In addition, there are plentiful collections of bronzes, ceramics, and several rooms containing arms and armour from the late medieval period through to the 19th century.
Today I paid my second visit to the Wallace Collection – the first since my initial visit two years ago. In 2008 photography was not permitted, but now the curators have sensibly allowed non-flash photography so I was able to document some of the excellent exhibits. And unlike the British Museum, which I stopped in to visit afterwards, the Wallace wasn’t heaving with visitors, despite it being a rainy Sunday. And did I mention entry is free?
[Three Wallace Collection panoramas, showing the luxurious fittings of Hertford House. The red room on the first floor contains The Laughing Cavalier – centre of the right wall. The empty room is temporarily without exhibits. Impressive wallpaper though]
[Clockwise from top left: 17th century Dutch portrait; 16th century German knight’s armour; French mantel clock from the 1730s; Indian ceremonial silver mace, late 18th century]