Wallace Collections

I have not yet had time to draw your attention to some of the clocks which are here, and which would make quite a separate study of themselves. The timepiece is sometimes the least important part of the ornament, for such it is. It seems merely an excuse for paying compliments to kings ; a setting for beautifully modelled figures, and symbols of the flight of time. The clocks were to be things of beauty first of all, timekeepers only by accident. The hands may have occasionally reminded a noble owner that it was time to have audience with his Majesty, but they cannot have relentlessly directed him to get up in the morning. This would seem too prosaic a use for them. Diana, the huntress, was ever a favourite heroine with the French. She was the goddess of the chase, and she is armed with her bow and arrows on a clock and cabinet (Gallery I., 12), A winged genius (17) is the presiding figure in the clock over the mantelpiece in this room. He is giving to one of the Muses a map of the world. A figure of love stands on a pile of books when we come into the next room (Gallery II, 14), with one finger she points to the figures on the dial of the clock, which is round an urn. We see one or two clocks, with the figures so arranged in Hertford House, and I think they bear out my contention that they were for ornament and not for use. To the question, ` What’s o’clock ?’ one would answer, ‘O, do wait a minute, I can’t make it out all in a hurry.’ This clock stands on a console table (16) which has the top inlaid with quaint little landscapes in marble. We must notice them and remember what skill is required to get the effect of a scene in this material.

We might look for a moment or two at some of the furniture that bears the name of André Charles Boulle (1642-1732). As a boy he longed to be a painter, and with the artistic sense which we know he possessed, he would certainly have been a notable one. But his father would not hear of it ; he was a cabinet-maker and wanted his son to go into the business, The boy was reluctantly obliged to consent, but he can hardly have regretted it. He had real genius for the decoration of furniture.

Ile was successful from the first, and by the time he was thirty, he was made royal cabinetmaker. You will find that nearly all his work here has metal laid on tortoiseshell and tortoiseshell on metal. This was his favourite mode of decoration. A cabinet by him (Gallery IX, 4) has some of this work, a medallion of Louis XIV is let into the centre. Figures carved in wood bear up the weight of the cabinet.

There is not much tapestry at Hertford House, for Sir Richard Wallace sold his collection, but we will look at one or two pieces. Tapestry, as you know, used in the early days to hang on the walls to cover the barrenness of the stone and to keep out draughts. The ladies of the household would embroider rich hangings recording the heroic deeds of their ancestors. Later on rooms were panelled with wood, and tapestry went out of fashion. But Louis XIV, who was a patron of all the arts, revived it. The Gobelin tapestry and the Beauvais tapestry factories were both started in his reign.

The coverings were woven by skilled workmen. One piece of Beauvais you might look at is on the large sofa (Gallery I, 25). The design on this sofa-is of the Monkey and the Dauphin in La Fontaine’s fables. At the top of the great staircase there are two panels of Beauvais tapestry, which you should look at very carefully. You must realise that they are woven in silk and wool. One is of a ` Boy going to School ‘ (22), a most lifelike figure, and the other is of a ` Girl holding a-Cat’ (23). She is animated and amusing. They are copies of pictures by François Drouais, a French painter of note.

The sculpture deserves more than the few words I can say about it. You will see several polychromatic busts in which the idea is to give the flesh of the coloured peoples, negroes as pure black, just as our flesh is represented in marble as pure white. There are two that you might look at of an African Queen and King (Gallery IV,2 and 3). They are curious, and if they fail to be beautiful, it is rather that the types of humanity they represent are ugly according to our ideas, than that they are not beautifully wrought.

If you want to see a perfect type of manly beauty you must look at the Apollo Belvedere in the same gallery (7). It is a copy of the celebrated statue in the Vatican which was probably carved in the time of Nero. It is the face of the god, calm and disdainful. Apollo represented all that was most beautiful in Greek life.

At the head of the stairs you will see a statuette in an alcove. It is of ` Triumphant Love ‘ (9). A ‘ graceful Cupid is stooping down to take another arrow from his quiver, and whispering to himself :

‘Qui que tu sois, voici ton maître, I1 l’est, le fut, ou le droit être.’

So you know what is in store for you when you grow up.


Whilst you are thinking of little Cupid and his threat we might turn for a moment and have a look at the jewels (Gallery XII, Case A). There is a glittering array of necklaces, badges, rings, bracelets, watches, of exquisite workmanship. Here is Prudentia looking into the mirror, a serpent clasped in her hand (65). These were her attributes. The mirror which gave back to her her own reflection and the serpent to teach her wisdom.

Animals have ever been used as badges. I have told you elsewhere of the order of the golden fleece, and of the dove of St. Esprit. There is a most delicate jewel here (61) formed as a dove, the body is composed of one pearl and the head and wings are of enamel. A pearl is also used for the body of a dog, decorated with rubies and emeralds (82). We have an eagle crowned (81), a dragon in brilliant green enamel, a rabbit with head and feet of gold. Nothing would be gained, even had I the space, by my describing every gem in this beautiful case. I must refer those of you who are interested to the catalogue, which gives all that is known of the jewels and tells us of their date. You must think of the grand ladies of the courts of the three Kings,—Louis XIV, XV, and XVI,—wearing these beautiful ornaments round their arms and necks as they trooped in to a court ball or took part in a masquerade.

In the Londonderry Cabinet you will see a tankard (200), a copy of an old-fashioned pattern, which was presented by the King, when he was Prince of Wales, to Sir Richard Wallace.


I must leave you to look for yourselves at Case G, Gallery III, only suggesting to you that you can read the history of England and France as well in the collection of coins and medals as you can in the miniatures. You can see Mary Tudor (335) and King Philip of Spain (353), Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria (354), Louis XIV (393), —too long a list to give you.

If you want to see what Diana of Poitiers looked like carved in wood (Case G, 408) you should look carefully at this figure in which she is shown as the moon goddess. An exquisite little statuette in ivory (424), of a child blowing into a shell you must not miss, and also an ivory mirror case (434).

You will have noticed Cardinal Mazarin’s knife, fork, and spoon among the historical treasures; here he is in wax (484) ; the artist has managed to give a character to the face that is unusual in these portraits. You will laugh at many of them, I am sure.

We have had a last look round, and still there is much of the greatest interest of which I have not said a word. It would be impossible in so short a space as I have at my disposal to do justice in any way to Hertford House. The three catalogues of the pictures, the armour, and the objects of art, to which I owe much information, will help those of you who wish to know fully and completely the history of each separate thing.

I have also referred in writing this little guide to M. H. Spielmann’s ` The Wallace Collection,’ A. H. Baldry’s ` Hertford House,’ E. T. Cook’s ` Guide to the National Gallery,’ R. C. Witt’s

How to Look at Pictures,’ Ruskin’s ` Modern Painters,’ E. Taighy’s Isabey, G. C. Williamson’s Portrait Miniatures, etc., etc. ; articles in the Dictionary of National Biography, and other biographies, and encyclopedias, articles in the magazines on the Collection, and so on.

I have tried, as far as possible, to anticipate any likely question that a boy or girl might ask as they go through the rooms. Those of them who are interested in history, will go home and read of Louis XIV and Louis XV, of Marie Antoinette, and the French Revolution, of the rise and fall of Napoleon, and then will come again with that fuller knowledge which always means fuller enjoy-ment. It is of the everlasting question ` Who ?’ and ` Why ?’ that I have thought. It would be the study of a lifetime to learn to appreciate completely the beauty, the finish, the rarity, the value, of all that is gathered within these walls.