The Great Gallery Reopened!
Do you know that feeling you can get when you see something that so impresses you that you actually have to go back to see it again? Well that is what happened with me and the re-opening of the Great Gallery at the Wallace Collection and believe me it is looking fantastic.
The new ceiling which once again allows natural light in is a huge bonus, evoking Sir Richard Wallace’s days. He had the original gallery added between 1872-5 to house his collection which he was bringing over from Paris.
The famous art historian Sir Kenneth Clark described it as “the greatest picture gallery in Europe” and it certainly deserves that appellation. The new hang emphasizes the creative dialogue between the major 17th century centres of artistic endeavor; Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and France. Among the familiar treasures on show are the widely known and loved works – Hals’ The Laughing Cavalier, Rubens’ The Rainbow Landscape, Poussin’s A Dance to the Music of Time and Velázquez’ The Lady with a Fan.
The striking new crimson silk damask on the walls reflects the way 19th century collectors displayed their paintings while the new decorative wainscot panelling captures the spirit of the 18th century as arranged against it is some of the Collection’s superb Boulle furniture. Indeed the noted collector the Marquis de Marigny (Madame de Pompadour’s brother) said that the best way to display Boulle furniture was against white and gold panelling and he is certainly proved right in this gallery. By the 1770s it had become fashionable in France to place Boulle pieces in the same rooms as Old Masters.
So following the two year refurbishment, thanks to the generous support of the Monuments Trust who made it possible, the 18th, 19th and 21st centuries have come together in a glorious symphony of art. I did wonder looking at the portrait of George IV what he would think were he able to visit the gallery and I could imagine that on leaving he would call his architects and ask them to create as great a room for him at Buckingham Palace!
all images are copyright