The magnificent collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture and curiosities created by Horace Walpole for his celebrated gothic villa at Strawberry Hill, which was later dispersed all over the world in the famous sale of the century of 1842, has been reassembled for the once-in-a-lifetime exhibition Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill: Masterpieces from Horace Walpoles Collection from 20 October 2018 24 February 2019. The exhibition provides a unique opportunity to see one of the most famous 18th century collections including masterpieces by Joshua Reynolds, Anthony Van Dyck and Hans Holbein, reunited in its original setting in the fine rooms at Strawberry Hill.
For the public, this is the only opportunity to see Strawberry Hill as its owner intended. This is significant because Walpole is widely thought of as the most important British collector in the 18th century. He wrote the first book on British art history, Anecdotes of Painting, and Strawberry Hill, with its 6,000 artworks and artefacts, was open to the public in his lifetime and influenced the museum displays of the future.
Research Curator, Silvia Davoli and Michael Snodin, Chair of Strawberry Hill Collection Trust, have undertaken a major treasure hunt for Walpoles collection, which has led to the discovery of Walpole objects across the world. To date, 200 more objects have been found in public museums and private collections from London to New York to Moscow. In many cases the owners were unaware of the Strawberry Hill provenance. Discoveries include renaissance paintings and drawings, works by Rubens and Van Dyck, an ancient Roman fresco and a sarcophagus. There are many significant objects still at large and the search continues with an interactive Treasure Hunt Blog in partnership with Boodle Hatfield, solicitors. http://www.strawberryhillhouse.org.uk/strawberry-hill-treasure-hunt/
Michael Snodin. Chair of Strawberry Hill Collection Trust, said: Horace Walpoles collection, one of the most important of the 18th century, has been world-famous since its dispersal in 1842. This exhibition provides a unique and unparalleled opportunity to see Walpoles objects in the glorious and atmospheric settings at Strawberry Hill that he created to receive them.
Strawberry Hill was created as a gothic villa between 1747 and 1797 by Horace Walpole, son of Britains first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole. It is of unique historical significance as the birthplace of the gothic revival in 18th century domestic architecture and has recently been the subject of a major £10 million restoration, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and winning the Europa Nostra Grand Prix for conservation in 2013.
Strawberry Hill was filled with a celebrated collection of paintings, furniture, sculptures and curiosities: great portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir Peter Lely, Allan Ramsay, Rubens, Van Dyck, Hans Holbein and Clouet; miniature portraits by Isaac and Peter Oliver, Hilliard and Petitot, a carved Roman eagle from the 1st century AD; fine furniture including a Boulle cabinet, fabulous Sèvres pieces as well as some oddities such as a limewood cravat, carved by Grinling Gibbons, a lock of Mary Tudors hair and a magic mirror (an obsidian disc) which Dr Dee, Queen Elizabeth Is necromancer, had used for conjuring up the spirits.
In 1842, the collection was dispersed world-wide in a 28 day sale of the century. From the 1920s to the 70s, Walpole scholar and consummate collector Wilmarth S. Lewis, who edited and published with Yale University Press the 48-volume Yale Edition of Horace Walpoles Correspondence (New Haven, 1937-1983), assembled the largest private collection of Walpoliana, including many pieces from Strawberry Hill, which he and his wife bequeathed to Yale University in 1980 as the Lewis Walpole Library, with whose help the Strawberry Hill Trust is delighted to be mounting this exhibition.
Walpole left detailed descriptions of the displays in each of the main rooms of his villa, so that nearly all the works can be shown in their original positions. In The Great Parlour, a display of portraits of Walpoles family includes the famous Reynolds painting of Walpoles nieces, The Ladies Waldegrave, (now in the National Gallery of Scotland). The Tribune houses the famous rosewood cabinet designed by Walpole, owned by the V&A, together with a display of exquisite portrait miniatures. Walpoles gilded, crimson Gallery once again houses the impressive Roman sculpture of an eagle and has been hung with life-size portraits, including The Family of Catherine de Medici by Clouet.
A richly illustrated book about Walpole and his collections, written by Silvia Davoli accompanies the exhibition. Published by Scala (price £15) it is available in the Strawberry Hill shop or may be purchased on-line.