The Wallace Collection is a charming museum located in a beautiful historic mansion. It’s home to a fantastic collection of fine and decorative arts created between the 15th and 19th centuries. I visited it during my last trip to the UK’s capital, and it quickly became one of my favourite museums in London. To encourage you to see it too, here is the Wallace Collection museum review, including its history, collection highlights and tips for visiting.

Museum Review & Highlights: The Wallace Collection

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Located in the Hertford House in London, The Wallace Collection is one of the art gems in the UK’s capital. The Wallace Collection highlights are displayed on the museum’s two floors. While visiting it, you can enjoy its carefully curated artworks in the setting of a luxurious historical London townhouse. The museum is a perfect size, and you can see all Wallace Collection highlights within a couple of hours.

Entrance to the Wallace Collection permanent display is free of charge, so you can enjoy world-class art for free.

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The Wallace Collection History

The Wallace Collection comprises an art collection gained by the four Marquesses of Hertford and Richard Wallace, the fourth Marquess’ illegitimate son. Five generations of one of the wealthiest European families in the 18th and 19th centuries gained one of the best art collections in the world.

Richard Wallace lived in Paris before moving to London. There, he was honoured for his charitable services during the Siege of Paris in 1871. He also gave the city fifty iron-cast fountains known as Le Wallaces, which provided free drinking water to the public. If you’ve ever been to Paris, you must be familiar with its iconic water fountains. Well, the person we should give credit to is the fourth Marquess of Hertford’s son, Richard Wallace. His widow left the art collection to the British nation after she died in 1897. Three years later, the Wallace Collection was opened to the public.

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Hertford House

Although the Wallace Collection is home to numerous fantastic artworks, one of its highlights is the house in which it’s located, the Hertford House. Visiting it will show you what the interior of the 19th-century town mansions used to look like. With its many period furniture, you’ll get a glimpse into the life of British aristocracy during the 18th and 19th centuries. Its charming yet luxurious interior will make you feel the ambience of some past times.

Built in 1776 and bought by the Second Marquess of Hertford in 1797, it was home to several generations of the family. The Entrance Hall will immediately transfer you back in history. You can see different types of rooms in the museum, from the Dining Room, the Billiard Room, the Housekeeper’s Room to the Smoking Room. They don’t necessarily reflect their original purpose anymore. However, you can still get a feeling of their original appearance in the wallpapers, and some furniture like fireplaces and chandeliers.

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The Wallace Collection Artwork

The collection contains around 5,500 works of art and is home to some world-famous artworks. It’s home to one of the most important collections of French furniture in the UK and one of the best French 18th-century art collections. It also has a great collection of Dutch Golden Age paintings.

The 18th-century French paintings

The Wallace Collection is home to numerous fantastic 18th-century French paintings. With 17 of Francois Boucher’s paintings, it has one of the world’s largest collections of his work. The Wallace Collection is also home to a lovely collection of Jean-Honore Fragonard’s artworks. Eight of his paintings from this museum include his world-famous masterpiece, Lady with a Swing. Among other French authors within the Wallace Collection highlights are Nicolas Poussin, Jean-Antoine Watteau, and many more.

French furniture and porcelain

The Wallace Collection is also home to one of the UK’s most important collections of French furniture. With more than 500 pieces, it mainly consists of 18th-century French furniture. The museum has a large collection of Meissen porcelain and one of the most extensive collections of 18th-century Sevres porcelain worldwide.

Dutch Old Masters

During my visit to the Wallace Collection, I especially enjoyed exploring its Dutch Golden Age paintings. Its various themes are a great way to learn more about the genres of Dutch 17th-century painting. Among the Wallace Collection highlights are five compositions by Rembrandt van Rijn and his workshop. Especially touching is the portrait of his son Titus. Other Dutch Old masters whose artworks you can find on the walls of this charming museum are Ferdinand Bol, Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch, Jan Steen, Jacob Ruisdael, and others.

Flemish School

The Wallace Collection is also home to artworks made by some of the most famous Flemish masters. Peter Paul Rubens is represented with nine paintings, Anthony van Dyck with four paintings, and Hans Memling with one painting. Exploring this collection provides an exciting insight into the collectors’ taste in art in the 18th and 19th centuries.

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Italian Masters

They were also interested in the artworks made by Italian painters, so you’ll find some lovely artworks made in Italy within the Wallace Collection highlights. The Italian collection includes paintings created by Canaletto, Francesco Guardi, Andrea del Sarto, Titian, and other artists.

Armour in the Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection is home to one of the best armour collections in England. They are displayed on the museum’s first floor. The artefacts span from medieval European armour to 19th-century Asian weapons. The collection includes daggers, swords, shields, pistols, and more.

TIP: You can explore the Wallace Collection online on this link.

The Wallace Collection Highlights

Frans Hals: The Laughing Cavalier

If you could see only one painting among the Wallace Collection highlights, make it The Laughing Cavalier. Made in 1624, this painting is one of Frans Hals’ most famous artworks. It’s a portrait of an unknown man but, without a doubt, a wealthy Dutchman from the 17th century. His smile makes it unique because smiling people were rarely shown in portraits then. His exquisite clothes make it even more special.

Rembrandt: Titus, the Artist’s Son

Titus was the only child of a famous Dutch painter who lived to adulthood. Rembrandt van Rijn made several portraits of his son Titus, always including strong emotions in them. The painting in the Wallace Collection is no exception. Titus looks at us calmly, almost like we interrupted him in a play. His red cap contrasts with the typically muted colours common in Rembrandt’s artwork.

Read more: Art History Lesson – Rembrandt van Rijn

Jean-Honore Fragonard: The Swing

The Swing, made by Jean-Honore Fragonard, is considered one of the best Rococo paintings. The 18th-century painting is the artist’s best-known artwork. The painting was restored in 2021 when a layer of yellow varnish was removed. It revealed the original, more vivid colours, especially the blue and green shades of the trees.

Peter Paul Rubens: The Rainbow Landscape

This Peter Paul Rubens painting shows an idealised landscape. Set up around the painters’ manor house between Antwerp and Brussels, he showed people busy with diverse tasks, from haymaking to herding cattle. Made in 1636, it belongs among the artist’s later works.

Canaletto: Two Views of Venice

Italian 18th-century painter Canaletto is famous for his detailed city views. These two views of Venice, made between 1735 and 1744, are among his finest work. These paintings were trendy among the aristocracy going on the Grand European Tours. Both by the first Marquess of Hertford, they were among the first artworks to get in the Wallace Collection.

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Tips for visiting the Wallace Collection

Visit the Cafe Bagatelle

Located in the museum’s inner courtyard and covered by a glass roof, Cafe Bagatelle is where you can enjoy a cup of coffee during your visit to the Wallace Collection. The Wallace Collection restaurant is also a beautiful place to have afternoon tea in London.

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Join a free guided tour

Each day at 2:30 pm, the museum organises a one-hour-long free tour around the Wallace Collection. I joined it during my visit and loved learning about the building’s history and collection. You don’t need to register in advance; just mention you’d like to join the tour at the museum’s entrance.

Open furniture month

I already mentioned this museum is home to a fantastic furniture collection. Each February, they host the Open Furniture Month, where they open their cabinets, closets and table drawers, allowing you to peek inside them.

A self-guided audio tour

If you don’t have a chance to join the guided tour, you can download this self-guided audio tour on your phone and learn more while exploring the Wallace Collection that way.

Private tour at the Wallace Collection

Would you like to treat yourself to some fantastic art experience during your trip to London? Book this private tour of the Wallace Collection and the National Gallery in London then.

The Wallace Collection opening hours: Daily, 10 am – 5 pm

The Wallace Collection Address: Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN, UK

The Wallace Collection entry fee: The Wallace Collection permanent display is free of charge

With its fantastic collection located in a beautiful historical mansion, the Wallace Collection is a museum you shouldn’t miss in London. This Culture Tourist guide through the Wallace Collection highlights will help you plan your visit.

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