London: The Wallace Collection

I first heard about The Wallace Collection years ago when I was writing a secret guide to Marylebone for a magazine I was working on at the time.

As part of the feature, I was interviewing locals to find out their favourite spots in the area and one woman I talked to mentioned The Wallace Collection.

Intrigued, I decided to check it out the following Saturday and discovered an utterly delightful collection of art, porcelain and furnishings inside a magnificent mansion.

The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection is a collection of European artworks, furniture and armoury amassed by the 4th Marquess of Hertford and his probable son Sir Richard Wallace in the 19th century.

At the time, the Hertfords were one of the richest families in Europe and split their time between Paris and London.

When Sir Richard’s widow, Lady Wallace, died in 1897 she left the enormous collection to the nation on condition that it remained intact.

The boudoir in The Wallace Collection

Three years later, the Wallace Collection was opened to the public at the Hertfords’ former London mansion, Hertford House in Marylebone.

The collection, which includes works by the likes of Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Canaletto and Velazquez, is showcased in 25 glorious galleries.

The Front State Room in The Wallace Collection

On stepping inside Hertford House, I made my way into the front state room, a sumptuous room filled with portraits and ornate furniture (above). It was an early taste of what was to come.

The mansion’s front and back state rooms were the most important and grandest in the house, and they were where the family would greet their visitors.

Sixteenth-century gallery at The Wallace Collection

I headed into the long gallery next door, which boasts artworks and artifacts from the Medieval and Renaissance periods, including some beautiful silver and glass objects (above).

The gallery leads onto the smoking room, where Sir Richard Wallace would entertain his male guests after dinner.

Today the room is home to yet more Medieval and Renaissance art, and the cabinets are filled with Italian Renaissance maiolica.

A pair of incense burners in the Smoking Room

My favourite objects in the collection are these two Chinese incense burners that date from the end of the 17th or early 18th century (above), which take pride of place in the centre of the room.

Alcove in the Smoking Room

During Sir Richard’s day, the entire room was decorated with blue and white tiles, which despite being Turkish in style, were made in Stoke-on-Trent.

Although most of the tiles were taken down in 1937, you can still see some of the original tiles in the alcove at the far end of the gallery (above).

East Gallery at The Wallace Collection

Next to the alcove, there’s a small staircase leading to the first floor and the museum’s east galleries (above), which house much of the collection’s Dutch art.

The Great Gallery inside the Wallace Collection

From there, I made my way into the great gallery (above). The impressive, eye-catching room was built in the mid-1870s to showcase the collection’s most notable works of art.

Its walls are adorned with French, Italian, Spanish, Flemish and Dutch art from the 17th century and includes works by Rubens and Velazquez, as well as the collection’s masterpiece, The Laughing Cavlier by the Dutch artist Frans Hals.

West Gallery inside The Wallace Collection

The far end of the great gallery leads to the west galleries, a series of rooms featuring 19th century pieces by British, French and Venetian artists.

The first room features a series of paintings depicting Napoleon (above), while the second focuses on British and French works from the 1820s.

Venetian paintings on display in the West Gallery I

The third gallery is one of my favourite rooms in the house, displaying Venetian art by the likes of Canaletto and Francesco Guardi (above).

The West Room in The Wallace Collection

The galleries culminate in the west room, a small room that’s adorned with 18th century British portraits by Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds, among others.

All the portraits depict women and the most ubiquitous face is that of the 18th century English actress and poet Mary Robinson, also known as Perdita, who’s the subject of three portraits.

Desk in the boudoir at The Wallace Collection

From the west room, I made my way into the boudoir, a small attractive room filled with late 18th century French furniture, including this lovely wooden desk (above).

The Cabinet at The Wallace Collection

Next door is the cabinet, a small room exhibiting 17th and 18th century miniatures (above), which range from portraits and trinkets to embellished snuff boxes.

The study at The Wallace Collection

On walking through the cabinet, I found myself in the study (above), a large ornate room with furniture that was once owned by the infamous French Queen Marie-Antoinette.

Porcelain on display in the study at The Wallace Collection

Alongside the stunning furniture and dazzling wallpaper, there’s a series of cabinets displaying some exquisite Sèvres porcelain (above).

Writing desk in The Wallace Collection

From the study, I ambled into a pretty oval room, where I was captivated by this beautiful writing desk (above).

The large drawing room at The Wallace Collection

I continued to step inside one lavishly decorated and opulently furnished room after another.

First, the large drawing room (above), then the small drawing room (below), which was full of furniture dating from the reign of the French King Louis XV.

Small drawing room inside The Wallace Collection

They were followed by the east drawing room, home to works by Flemish painters such as Rubens and Van Dyck, and from there, I found myself back in the east galleries.

Rembrandt's portrait of his son Titus at The Wallace Collection

The first of the east galleries displays paintings by Rembrandt and his followers, and one of the most impressive paintings is Rembrandt’s portrait of his son Titus (above).

The armoury at The Wallace Collection

Having seen everything there was to see upstairs, I headed back downstairs to the armoury, a series of rooms showcasing an extensive array of arms and armour (above).

The dining room inside The Wallace Collection

From there, I finished my visit with a look around the few remaining downstairs rooms I hadn’t had chance to see earlier.

These included the dining room, which was adorned with 18th century French portraits (above), and the billiard room, boasting furniture by Louis XV’s cabinet maker André-Charles Boulle (below).

The billiard room at The Wallace Collection

My visit ended in the impressive back state room (below), which features a collection of works patronised by Louis XV and his maîtresse-en-titre Madame de Pompadour.

Back state room at The Wallace Collection

By now I was feeling peckish, so I stopped off at The Wallace Collection’s sleek bistro for a quick bite to eat – a delicious cured trout and beetroot salad (below).

Beetroot-cured trout at The Wallace Collection's restaurant

I always enjoy my visits to The Wallace Collection, it’s one of my favourite museums in London.

I have a tendency to forget just how lavish and ornate the interior is and how much there is to see, which means each time I go I come away just as impressed as the first time I visited.


The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN
Open daily, 10am to 5pm


8 thoughts on “London: The Wallace Collection

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  1. What a marvellous tip the lady gave you. Oh to be the Hertfords eh, with seemingly endless wealth. Sladja and I have enjoyed similar sights across Europe (Montenegro and Georgia spring to mind), old historic houses stuffed with antiques and amazing art. Each one has its own unique backstory with incredible items on display. So this would be righty up our street, no doubt. The Rembrandt painting… magnificent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I find talking to locals about where to go or eat almost always pays off. It’s incredible to think how many of these magnificent houses filled with treasures there are around the world and how much wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few. Agree about the Rembrandt, it’s a wonderful paintings.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, what a fantastic place with such a stunning collection of art and artefacts in a wonderful house right in the centre of London. Who knew you could see so many paintings by grandmasters in such beautiful surroundings and all for free? Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

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