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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Old Master Paintings Return to England for the First Time in 230 Years

Anthony's Van Dyck's 'Portrait of Sir Thomas Wharton (Detail),' 1639. Anthony's Van Dyck's 'Portrait of Sir Thomas Wharton (Detail),' 1639. © The State Hermitage Museum

A selection of oil paintings from Russia’s Hermitage Museum will be on view at Houghton Hall in England from May 17, 2013 through September 29, 2013. Great Britain’s first prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole, assembled the collection during the first half of the 18th century and built Houghton Hall to house the works. Paintings from Russian and American collections will complement the works, which are returning to England for the first time in 230 years.

Walpole built Houghton Hall, which now belongs to Lord Cholmondeley, one of his direct descendants, between 1722 and 1735. In 1779,When Walpole’s grandson was in need of money, he sold the majority of his grandfather’s collection to Catherine the Great for nearly $61,500. Approximately 75 of the sold works are returning to Houghton Hall for the exhibition including paintings by Rembrandt (1606-1669), Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), and Diego Velázquez (1599-1660).

While a handful of the paintings have been on view in England since their sale in the 18th century, none of them have returned to Houghton Hall. Designed by the foremost architects of Walpole’s time, James Gibbs and Colen Campbell, Houghton Hall’s lavish interior was decorated by the eminent architect and furniture designer William Kent. Walpole spared no expense and Houghton Hall remains as one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture in England.

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