Beginning 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...
François Boucher, The Rising and Setting of the Sun, 1752–1753 (P485, P486)
These paintings were commissioned by Madame de Pompadour, the mistress to Louis XV of France. They served as models for tapestries for the king's bedroom in the château de Bellevue, Pompadour’s country retreat. The paintings themselves were installed on the ground floor of the same house. They show the nymph Tethys assisting the Greek deity Apollo as he sets out to drive the chariot of the sun across the sky, then welcoming him back after a day's work. This iconography celebrated Pompadour’s influential role in French politics because the reference to the Apollo, god of the sun, clearly designated Louis XV whose predecessor had been known as ‘the Sun King.’
Joshua Reynolds, Miss Jane Bowles, c. 1775 (P36)
Little Jane Bowles was only three or four years old when she sat for her portrait by the celebrated painter Sir Joshua Reynolds. This lively picture, the result of their sitting, was frequently copied and engraved in eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Miss Bowles, who went on to have eleven children herself, kept the original. It was at her brother’s sale in 1850 that the 4th Marquess of Hertford purchased the painting, today considered one of Reynolds’s most charming and spontaneous images of childhood.
Bernard Molitor, Secretaire, c. 1790 (F309)
Everything about this desk shows that it has been built by one of the finest cabinetmakers of the French eighteenth-century. Molitor’s production is marked by extremely high-quality materials and perfect proportions. Here, the front is divided into four panels, two of which disguise a fall-front which opens to reveal a writing surface, while drawers and a strong box are concealed behind the two lower doors. Despite its evident functionality, it is the delicacy of the gilt-bronze mounts and the flame pattern of the carefully chosen mahogany veneer that make this a masterpiece of cabinetmaking.
Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun, Mme Perregaux, 1789 (P457)
Made by one of the rare female artists represented in the Wallace Collection, this painting depicts Adélaîde de Praël, wife of banker Jean-François Perregaux who would eventually count among his clients the 3rd Marquess of Hertford. It is signed and dated 1789, making it one of the last works Vigée Le Brun painted before she left France. The artist, a prominent society portraitist best known for her close association with Marie Antoinette, queen of France, correctly gaged the changing political mood and emigrated just in time to escape oncoming revolution.
Manufacture de Sèvres, Garniture of Three Vases and Covers Vase 'E de 1780' of the first size and vases 'E de 1780' of the second size, 1781 (C334-6)
The Sèvres porcelain manufactory excelled at inventing new designs, new colours and new techniques of decoration to keep its novelty-hungry clientele satisfied. This set of three vases combines some of the most difficult and costly decoration that could be produced. With exquisite enamel paintings front and back, the most striking feature is the jewelling effect of the coloured enamels, set against the deep blue ground colour in fashionable arabesque decoration. Lavish even by the standards of the Bourbon court, the vases may have been owned first by Marie-Antoinette, but were later presented by Louis XVI to Prince Henry of Prussia, brother of Frederick the Great, during a diplomatic visit to Paris in 1784.
The Drawing Rooms
Oval Drawing Room
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Swing, c. 1767 (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.
Martin Carlin, Secretaire, c. 1776 (F304)
The passion for Sèvres porcelain was in part due to the outstanding colour palette invented by the manufactory, with its deep hues of blue, green and pink ground colours and bright enamel painted decoration. From the 1750s, this vibrantly-coloured porcelain was mounted on furniture, enhancing the already colourful effect of the newly-cut timbers with specially-designed plaques. Here, Martin Carlin has incorporated exquisitely painted porcelain on his fall-front desk; the way in which the porcelain imitates textile, with its fringed decoration, is truly remarkable.
Large Drawing Room
André-Charles Boulle, Wardrobe, c. 1700 (F61)
One of the glories of the Wallace Collection, this large cupboard (armoire in French) is characteristic of the work of André-Charles Boulle, the most famous French cabinetmaker of the eighteenth-century and perhaps of all time. It combines ebony veneers with brass and turtleshell decoration in the so-called ‘Boulle’ technique, and highly sculptural gilt-bronze mounts. In the nineteenth-century this aesthetic continued to attract rich connoisseurs, and this cupboard was owned by the Duke of Buckingham who converted the inside into a wardrobe for Queen Victoria when she visited his estate at Stowe in 1845.
Small Drawing Room
Nicolas-Jean Marchand and Gilles Joubert, Chest-of-drawers, 1755 (F88)
Queen Marie Leszczyńska, wife of Louis XV, is often overlooked as a patron of the arts in the shadow of her husband’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour. However, she had a very keen artistic interest and many important commissions were undertaken for her and in her apartments. This chest of drawers is a charming and very rare surviving example of furniture made for the queen, and comes from her bedroom at the Palace of Fontainebleau. Once forming part of a pair, it incorporates Chinese lacquer that has been stripped from a previous object and moulded to fit into this highly fashionable rococo French chest of drawers.
Antoine Watteau, Les Champs Elisées, c. 1720–21 (P389)
This painting is typical of the ‘fête galante,’ a genre of painting created by Watteau in the early eighteenth-century. Such works represent beautifully dressed aristocrats enjoying themselves in landscape settings by conversing, flirting, or playing music. As with many of Watteau’s compositions, its meaning — beyond the pursuit of pleasure — remains mysterious. However the artist has introduced a heavy dose of irony in the form of the standing man on the right. He holds his hand elegantly to his hip as he faces the four seated women with the air of a sophisticated courtier. But the sculpture may reveal his actual thoughts: similar to a thought bubble in a comic strip, this nude stone nymph reclines right above his head.
East Drawing Room
Bartolomeus van der Helst, Jochem van Aras with his Wife and Daughter, 1654 (P110)
This impressive family portrait, signed and dated 1654, depicts Jochem van Aras, a successful baker and merchant from Amsterdam, and his wife Elisabeth, with their daughter Maria. The family’s country house and estate near Haarlem can be glimpsed on the right. The hare Elisabeth holds proudly is another symbol of the family’s growing social status. The right to hunt, until recently the exclusive privilege of the aristocracy, had just been extended to members of the wealthy bourgeoisie.
André-Charles Boulle, Console table, c. 1705 (F56)
The sheer inventiveness of Boulle’s furniture never ceases to surprise. A similar model of this console table was first designed for the child wife of Louis XIV’s grand-son, the Duchesse de Bourgogne, for the little house the king built for her in the small zoo at Versailles. Repeated in several slightly different guises by Boulle, the table leaves no doubt of its zoomorphic intentions with its bowed legs, lion’s paw feet and lion masks under the frieze. The surface of the top is made from Boulle marquetry of turtleshell and brass, and depicts monkeys at play, emulating humans in their activities.
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.
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.