Dulwich Loans over 50 Paintings to Strawberry Hill

Posted in museums, on site by Editor on January 18, 2023

From the press release, via Art Daily and Richmond.gov.uk:

Interior view of Strawberry Hill House

The Tribune, Strawberry Hill House, with loans from Dulwich Picture Gallery (Photo by Matt Chung).

Over fifty Old Master paintings on long-term loan from Dulwich Picture Gallery—and a further eight works from a private English collection—have just gone on display at Strawberry Hill House, helping to recreate the atmosphere of how the house would have appeared over 250 years ago.

As part of an ambitious project—through acquisitions and loan agreements, including the partnership with Dulwich Picture Gallery—Strawberry Hill House, the remarkable former home of the writer, antiquarian, and politician, Horace Walpole (1717–1797) is endeavouring to return some of the 6000 objects from the collection that Walpole amassed during his lifetime and, where possible, to recreate the original atmosphere of the house, when the rooms were filled with fantastic works of art.

In 1842, following Walpole’s death, the contents of the house were dispersed in a famous auction, known as the Great Sale. Since then, it has been a long-held desire of the Strawberry Hill Trust to bring as many pieces possible back to the historic villa in Twickenham. Indeed, its efforts have recently seen the acquisitions of an extraordinary portrait of Catherine de Medici and a celebrated Chinese ceramic fish tub with a macabre past. This appetite to acquire original objects and to display contemporaneous artworks has helped to create an atmosphere that would be familiar to Walpole were he alive today.

Interior view of Strawberry Hill House.

Detail of the Tribune, Strawberry Hill House, with loans from Dulwich Picture Gallery (Photo by Matt Chung).

The relationship between Strawberry Hill House and Dulwich Picture Gallery began in 2011 with the long-term loan of the portrait of Dorothy, Viscountess Townshend, ca. 1718 by Charles Jervas. Dorothy Walpole (1628–1726) was the sister of Sir Robert Walpole, Horace’s father. This portrait of his great aunt now hangs in its original position in the Great Parlour, where Walpole displayed portraits of both his family and some of his closest friends.

Among the paintings from the latest loan is a set of twenty-six British monarchs, assembled by the founder of Dulwich College, Edward Alleyn. These include Henry VIII, ca. 1618; Queen Anne Boleyn, ca. 1618; and Queen Mary, ca. 1618. These royal portraits have been hung in the Holbein Chamber, reflecting Walpole’s passion for history and its protagonists, which also influenced the overall arrangement of the artworks throughout the house. As an antiquarian and writer possessed of a vivid imagination, Walpole had a deep interest in royal and historical figures, evident throughout his collection, as well as in the designs of the house itself. The ceiling in the Holbein Chamber is a copy of the Queen’s Dressing Room in Windsor Castle, while the one in the Library is decorated with heraldic emblems, mythical beasts, coats of arms, and images of mounted crusaders, all reflecting Walpole’s various interests in the medieval period.

Dr Silvia Davoli, Strawberry Hill House Curator says: “Our collaboration with Dulwich Picture Gallery offers us the unique opportunity to borrow a substantial number of paintings that are very similar in style, period, and schools to those once collected by Horace Walpole; and it is thanks to these artworks that the rooms of Strawberry Hill finally appear to us in all their glory, much as they did in Walpole’s time.”

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