The Wallace Collection... (Part I)


01/09/17 - Five generations of English aristocrats helped give shape to a very eclectic collection, with artists like Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Velazquez, Poussin and Canaletto. All of them together can not be seen on display in any other British museum.
The Wallace Collection was opened to the public in 1900 although it has always kept its very personal feel, since the artworks are distributed around the house as if it still was a private collection. The international recognition to the quality of the artworks is due to the very trained eye, art obsession and huge fortune of the 4th Marquis of Hertford (1800 – 1870), who lived most of his life in Paris. It was there that he bought the most relevant pieces, such as Fragonard's "The Swing". His illegitimate son, Sir Richard Wallace (1819-1890), moved the collection from Paris to London and his wife, Amélie Julie Castelnau, donated it to the British Nation in 1897. The residence has many rooms and each one displays the artworks that have to do with the previous use of the room. Thus, Watteau's and Boudin's paintings are located in the private rooms for women, while the reception areas, like the great hall, have mostly portraits.
The Swing (Les hazards hereux de l'escarpolette), by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1767)
Technique: oil on canvas

"The Swing" by Jean-Honoré Fragonard is one of the artist's most iconic works and this is because it encapsulates, in just a few centimeters, the humour and joie de vivre of Rococo. There's no better example of the combination of erotism and Nature. According to poet Charles Collé, an unknown gentleman from the French Court ask the artist to paint his young girlfriend on a swing, pushed by a bishop, while the gentleman stared at her legs from below. Fragonard avoided the bishop and placed the lady in the focal point of the painting, with a pink dress and in an unreachable position for both men.
Cupid a Captive, by Francois Boucher (c.1754)

Measures: 318 x 261 cm
Landing of the main staircase, on the left "The Rising of the Sun", by Francois Boucher
Technique: oil on canvas
Landing of the main staircase, on the right "The Rising of the Sun", by Francois Boucher
Technique: oil on canvas
Francois Boucher's (France, 1703 -1770) artworks were acquired by the 4th Marquis of Hertford and can be considered the most reliable representations of the taste of the French Court in the 18th century. The paintings on the landing of the staircase were later used for tapestries commissioned by Madame Pompadour. They are mythological images with clear reference to French politics. The King of France, Louis XV, was usually depicted as the god Apollo, while Pompadour in this painting is the beautiful nymph Tetis. The other artwork "Cupid a Captive" is about Cupid being captured by the muses and adorned with flowers, another scene of mythology that comprises the characteristics of Rococo.

(To be continued...)

Keep reading... "The Wallace Collection", deChristoph Martin Voghtherr, 2012, Scala Publishers Ltd. Londres.

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Liliana Wrobel

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Carla Mitrani