The Wallace Collection - Enchanting Havens
I first discovered The Wallace Collection in the instagram feed of fellow aesthete, the tailor Fabio Trombini. Like me, Stephen Tennant is one of his muses, and with a love of the baroque and a dedication to the worship of tiaras, his instagram feed is a treasure trove of decadence, history and gilt.
There are only three things that will make me leave the peaceful countryside for the roaring streets of London and that is art, culture and shopping. I will venture to London a couple of times a year, if i'm lucky, to buy items I can't otherwise find at home (Fortnum's, Buly 1803) and to visit as many museums and places with beautiful architecture as I can.
Before my first visit, I had seen a few photos of the Wallace Collection but hadn't really prepared myself for what I was about to see. First was a quick stop as Selfridges to the beauty hall and then down the street to the collection. My companion of the week, who had zero heads up at all, was speechless when we walked through the door to be faced with silk brocade wallpaper and a magnificent gilt and marble staircase.
You take a right and go from room to room, each more exquisite that the last. Every room with silk wallpaper, oil paintings covering every available wall space, Chinese lacquered furniture and large glass cabinets containing collections of china and antiques. There is one Oriental armoury and three European armouries, housing guns made for Louis XIV for hunting at Versailles and full suits of amour for both man and horse.
"The Wallace Collection contains some of the most spectacular Renaissance arms and armour in Britain. All of the richest and most powerful noblemen of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries commissioned beautifully decorated weapons and armour, not just for war, but also for use in the awe-inspiring jousts, tournaments and festivals of the time. Fine arms and armour were considered works of art as much as warlike equipment. Displayed in this gallery are some of the finest examples of the armourer's art, exquisite sculptures richly embellished with gold and silver."
We were completely speechless so it was very convenient that in the glass domed courtyard was a beautiful restaurant, the walls painted a terracotta pink, the plates monogramed with a matching pink 'W' and the food and service was exceptional.
The Wallace Collection is an art collection in London open to the public, housed at Hertford House in Manchester Square, the former townhouse of the Seymour family, Marquesses of Hertford.
"The Wallace Collection is an internationally outstanding collection which contains unsurpassed masterpieces of paintings, sculpture, furniture, arms and armour and porcelain. Built over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, it is one of the finest and most celebrated collections in the world."
So that it could be kept together and enjoyed by generations of visitors, the collection was given to the British Nation in 1897. It was an astonishing bequest and one of the greatest gifts of art works ever to be transferred into public ownership.
It is the most spectacular museum I have ever known and if you are planning a trip to London for a day the Wallace Collection is where I would send you.