Hertford House is an oasis of peace and history in central London. The paintings, furniture and town house setting of the Wallace Collection make a soothing change of scene from the bustle of Oxford Street.
A delight for the senses, stepping into the town house is a ticket back in time, to rural France in particular. Set amongst the opulent interiors, many famous and important pieces can be viewed in comfort and calm. Memories of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette abound, pastel colours and history.
Each room of the house has a different colour and theme, compartmentalising the objects and images for the visitor. As you meander through the house, the intimate hospitality of the setting is an experience in itself. This is not a musty museum experience – you are not on a tourist conveyor belt.
Some of the paintings will be familiar – Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s The Swing (1767) is the gallery’s most famous piece, placed opposite Francois Boucher’s Madame de Pompadour (1759). The subjects are ladies in divine peach pink dresses, every fold and detail of the garments captured forever. For me, these paintings define the collection, along with the Marie Antoinette boudoir, the largest collection of the French queen’s furniture in the world. The Study, a long, tiny room, contains beautiful miniatures, as well as jewelled boxes and cases. Ornamental and delicate, the sights in this room alone could be examined for hours.
Vivienne Westwood has been known to grace the collection with her presence, seeking inspiration from the canvasses.
Although heavy on the rococo style and French painting, if you enjoy history and art in any way, it would be difficult to find fault with the Wallace collection. A new favourite discovery, the gallery is strong on substance and aesthetic delight. It is nourishment for the eyes and mind.