London Studies Group visit to
The Wallace Collection
Friday 23rd September 2016
Tucked in Manchester Square, just behind Selfridges, is Hertford House, home to the Wallace Collection. Having never visited before I was absolutely stunned when I walked in through the door! Room after room was crammed with paintings, furniture, ornaments and other artifacts that have been saved for the nation to enjoy. Nothing can be changed, or bought or sold, or loaned – everything must remain as the benefactor bequeathed it.
I was very pleased that we had come with a specific purpose – to view the Old Masters – otherwise I would not have known where to start. I have to confess to being somewhat of a heathen when it comes to paintings so I was delighted to have this opportunity to be educated. My eyes were well and truly opened as we listened open-mouthed to our guide, Philippa Edwards, a local lass from Tonbridge. We didn't just see pictures: we saw history, we shared the lives of the subjects, we learned the lessons incorporated into the pictures for the benefit of a population that could not read and understood the symbolism used so often. In the Lutheran churches there were no religious paintings to warn of the dangers of sin so the artists painted the ideal lifestyle and illustrated the perils of sin! Who would have thought that a picture of a girl on a swing would indicate that passion comes outside marriage or that in the early days the only artists who painted cows and sheep were the Dutch because their homeland had become wealthy thanks to these animals?
There was so much we didn't look at. One felt rather guilty marching through some of the rooms not stopping to admire but if one sees too much, one sees nothing so we retired to the very attractive conservatory restaurant for an excellent lunch. Very definitely a place to return to many times and sincere thanks to Molly for organising the trip.