Back in May I went to the Wallace Collection to visit the Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts exhibition. In collaboration with New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art this exhibition, which finished recently, focused on how 18th century French art influenced Disney animators, particularly for the original Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. I enjoyed the exhibit, particularly the hand drawings of the transformation of Cinderella’s dress from rags, and the audioguide which was included in the £14 for adults admission price was really well done. Somewhat inevitably photography wasn’t allowed in the exhibition. Photography is allowed however in the Wallace Collection itself, which is free to enter.
This was the second time I’d been to the Wallace Collection but that was quite some years ago. The collection is a museum whose contents were left to the nation by Lady Wallace, widow of Sir Richard Wallace, in 1897. The collection is formed of art that Wallace and his ancestors purchased and is based in what was known as Hertford House, the Wallace’s main London home. It opened to the public in 1900.
The rooms are beautifully decorated and much more colourful than you might expect.
Some of my favourite items on display include this roll top desk which is a copy of the King’s Desk which was made for Louis XV. Started by Jean-François Oeben, in 1760 the original was completed by Jean Henri Riesener (who married Oeben’s widow!). The copy came about once the original came into the possession of Napoleon III and his wife who were friends of the 4th Marquess of Hertford, one of Wallace’s ancestors, and who received permission to have the desk copied. The original is in the Palace of Versailles.
Lots of pieces in the collection are French in origin which includes these gilt bronze plaques of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.
I also enjoyed this cleverly designed object. Made by the famous French company Sevres in 1758, it is an inkstand, though not obvious on first glance. Under the crown was a bell for summoning a servant to take away the written letters and included a sponge to wipe off excess ink. The right globe holds the ink whilst the left globe – with cut out patterns that represent signs of the zodiac and pierced with their star formations – contained sand for blotting the ink. Louis XV probably gifted it to his favourite daughter Marie-Adelaide.
There are also paintings everywhere including some extremely well known pieces like the Laughing Cavalier and some beautiful Venice scenes by Canaletto.
One of London’s hidden gems, you can find more photos here.