What to do in Marylebone #1 - The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, Manchester Square, W1, contains one of the world's largest holdings of French 18th-century paintings, furniture, arms & armour, porcelain and Old Master paintings.

Situated in a once-great town house (Hertford House), formerly the home of the Spanish ambassador to Britain (hence the nearby Spanish Place), the Wallace Collection is a jewel-case of the pictures, porcelain, furniture and armour squirrelled away by the opulent Hertford family over the course of a century. Formed over five generations and bequested to the Nation in 1897 by Lady Wallace, the ensemble includes some of the world's greatest and most famous masterpieces.

The Laughing Cavalier - Frans Hals, 1624

Perhaps the most famous artwork in the collection is The Laughing Cavalier (1624), a portrait by the Dutch Golden Age painter Frans Hals, which has been described as "one of the most brilliant of all Baroque portraits". The title, an invention of the Victorian public and press, dates from its exhibition in the opening display at the Bethnal Green Museum in 1872–75, just after its arrival in England, after which it was regularly reproduced as a print, and became among of the best known old master paintings in Britain. The unknown subject is in fact not laughing, but can be said to have an enigmatic smile, much amplified by his upturned moustaches.

The cavalier likes to keep and eye on his viewer - the effect of his eyes appearing to follow you from every angle is a result of the subject being depicted as looking directly forward, toward the artist's point of view, combined with being a static two dimensional representation of this from whichever angle the painting itself is viewed.

Some of the highlights of the collection can be seen below: 

Where: Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN - a short walk from our Chiltern Street and St. Christopher's Place apartments

When: Open daily from 10am - 5pm


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