As part of an ambitious project through acquisitions and loan agreements, including the partnership forged with Dulwich Picture Gallery - Strawberry Hill House
, the remarkable former home of the writer, antiquarian and politician, Horace Walpole (17171797) is endeavouring to return some of the 6000 objects from the collection he amassed during his lifetime and, where possible, recreate the original atmosphere of the house, when the rooms were filled with fantastic works of art.
In 1842, following Walpoles 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 once in his collection 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 return to the House. Indeed, it is this appetite to acquire as many of the original objects and display contemporaneous artworks that have helped to recreate the atmosphere that would be familiar to Walpole were he alive today.
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, c.1718 by Charles Jervas. Dorothy Walpole (1628-1726) was the sister of Sir Robert Walpole, Horaces father. This portrait of his great aunt has been hung in its original position in the Great Parlour, where Walpole displayed the 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, c.1618, Queen Anne Boleyn, c.1618 and Queen Mary, c.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, which was reflected throughout his collection, plus the interiors and architecture of the House. The ceiling in the Holbein Chamber is a copy of the Queens 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 of which reflective his various interests with 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.