Have you visited The Wallace Collection? Tucked in the streets behind Selfridges and overlooking the delightful, though private, Manchester Square gardens, The Wallace Collection is one of my favourite museums in London.
Located at Hertford House the collection comprises works of art acquired during the 18th and 19th centuries by the Marquesses of Hertford.
Though largely famous for several well known paintings by Rembrandt, Velazquez and Titian, the museum is also home to an outstanding collection of european arms and armour, objects from the Renaissance period and important French furniture pieces including a desk belonging to Marie Antoinette. The collection was bequeathed to the nation in 1897.
This museum is in my top 3 for London for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s small and accessible. I suffer from what I call “culture fatigue” – I cannot spend longer than 2 hours in a museum or gallery before I start to wilt or crave a lot of sugar.
As admission to The Wallace Collection is free you can digest in manageable short visits. You can also discover different aspects of the collection – such as Renaissance objets and sculpture saving the Old Masters for another day.
Secondly, the museum does not attract the huge crowds that swarm the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square. The Wallace Collection museum experience is much more refined and especially so when you take a break in the cafe and restaurant in the light filled central atrium.
The carefully curated collections are supported by knowledgeable volunteer staff who share fascinating insights into the personalities behind the collection including some tabloid worthy goings on in at Hertford House in the 18th century.
Lastly, and this was quite a surprise, I noticed that a vast number of the works on display had female subjects. From Madame Pompadour to ladies of more humble origin there is a concentration of paintings featuring women that I have not noticed in any other museum or gallery I have visited.
Admission is free and the museum is open 7 days a week, 10am – 5pm. The museum only closes for a few days over Christmas. If you have a spare hour for some culture when you are out and about shopping in Oxford Street I highly recommend a visit to this museum. Or you could dedicate a little longer and explore some of the marvellous stories within.
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