Welcome to Wallace Live, a database that will eventually contain information on every work of art in the Wallace Bequest. We are adding new records and images on a regular basis and are aiming to have the majority online by 2015.
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- Frans Hals (1582/3 - 1666)
- The Laughing Cavalier
- Bookmarkable URLIn this exuberant half-length portrait, a young man poses, arm rakishly akimbo, against a plain grey background. The painting is inscribed with the date (1624) and the sitter’s age (26). The work is unique in Hals’s male portraiture for the rich colour that is largely imparted by the sitter’s flamboyant costume: a doublet embroidered with fanciful motifs in white, gold and red thread, with a gilded rapier pommel visible at the crook of his elbow.
Neither the identity of the sitter nor the function of the portrait has yet been firmly established. The dazzling costume may offer some important clues, however. The motifs embroidered on the sitter’s doublet have been identified in emblem books of the time and were symbolic of the pleasures and pains of love; they include arrows, flaming cornucopiae and lovers’ knots. As allusions to gallantry and courtship, they may indicate that the work was painted as a betrothal portrait (cf. Van Dyck, P94), although no companion piece has been identified. It has also been suggested that the motifs (particularly the caduceus, the attribute of the Roman god Mercury) allude to an occupation in commerce and Pieter Biesboer has recently proposed that the sitter is Tieleman Roosterman, a wealthy Harlem textile merchant.
By 1624, Hals had painted a number of single and double portraits as well as a group portrait of a civic militia company. This work is probably the artist’s most famous portrait and demonstrates his virtuosity in the lively characterisation of his sitters, accomplished in his bravura style.
Hals grants the sitter a commanding aspect, placing him in close proximity to the picture plane and depicting him from a low viewpoint. The swaggering pose of the hand on the hip is closely associated with Hals’s male portraiture: a means of endowing his sitters with vitality and self- confidence, the pose also serves as an illusionistic device to give the picture greater pictorial depth. The portrait displays a variety of brushwork, from fine, blended strokes in the face to the broader, loose brushwork in the costume.
By the early nineteenth century, Hals’s reputation had fallen into relative obscurity. Despite this, the portrait became the object of a furious bidding battle between the 4th Marquess of Hertford and Baron James de Rothschild at a Paris auction in 1865. It was acquired by Lord Hertford for the princely sum of 51.000 francs (about £2,040), an event which proved to be a turning point in the artist’s critical reputation. At the Royal Academy exhibition of 1888, the painting was exhibited with the title ‘The Laughing Cavalier.’ Although the sitter is neither laughing nor a cavalier, the title conveys the sense of jocularity and swagger that is the cumulative effect of the low viewpoint and dazzling technique together with the sitter’s upturned moustache, twinkling eyes, and arrogant pose. The celebrity of the Laughing Cavalier subsequently inspired a novel with the same title by Baroness Orczy (1913), author of the Scarlet Pimpernel, and a musical by Arkell and Byrne (1937).
- Ecritoire 'à globes'
- Manufacture de Sèvres
- Sèvres, France
- 1758 - 1759
- Bookmarkable URLMade of soft-paste porcelain, this inkstand combines all the ingenuity, technical brilliance and vibrant colours for which the Sèvres manufactory was renowned in the 18th century and is one of the finest pieces of porcelain in the Wallace Collection. It comprises a large undulating oval plateau supported by elaborately scrolled feet, on which are set terrestrial and celestial globes and a cushion in the centre supporting a crown. The plateau acted as a pen-tray, while the globes housed silver-gilt liners which served in one as an inkwell and in the other as a container for the sand or powdered metal that was used to dry wet ink (like blotting paper). The crown originally contained a bell, for ringing a servant to take away letters when written.
The designer of the inkstand was Jean-Claude Chambellan Duplessis (c. 1695-1774). It is decorated with a green ground (fonds verd), in use regularly at Sèvres from 1756, and is painted in two white reserves with cherubs after Boucher, one holding a wreath of flowers and the other a dove, perhaps by Charles-Nicolas Dodin (1734-1803). The celestial globe is pricked with holes that match the position of the stars in the sky; the liner inside would have twinkled brightly through these when not in use. The gilding is of superb quality and includes inscriptions showing the longitude and latitude of major cities and the signs of the zodiac.
The date letter ‘F’ on the underside denotes 1758; although the inkstand does not appear in the sales records for Sèvres, the royal imagery on it suggests that it may have been a present from Louis XV for his daughter Marie-Adélaïde. Medallions on the base depict the head of the French king, the gilded monogram ‘MA’, and gilded fleurs de lis, the emblem of the French monarch. The monogram has caused some confusion in the past, and when the 4th Marquess of Hertford bought it in 1843 it was described as having belonged to Marie Antoinette, Louis XV’s granddaughter-in-law. However, from a stylistic point of view this is highly unlikely as Marie Antoinette did not arrive in France until 1770 when this kind of rococo decoration was no longer in vogue at Sèvres; moreover, one of the medallions on the base shows three fleur de lis within a lozenge shape, a motif denoting an unmarried French princess.
- Manufacture de Sèvres
- Louis XV's Commode
- Antoine-Robert Gaudreaus (1682 - 1746)
- Bookmarkable URLPerhaps the finest and most important example of the Rococco style in the decorative arts in the Wallace Collection, this commode was delivered by Gaudreaus for Louis XV’s new bedchamber in April 1739. A design for the commode attributed to the sculptor Sébastien-Antoine Slodtz, now in the Bibliothèque Nationale, reveals that the mounts were originally intended to be much more symmetrical. However, as executed by the master bronzier Caffiéri, they are wildly exuberant and seem to grow organically in every direction over the surface of the commode. Louis XV, as he lay dying in his bed, is said to have thought that in the flickering firelight, the mounts looked like the flames of hell. The commode was inherited by the King’s First Gentleman of the Bedchamber, the duc d’Aumont, who probably replaced the original red and grey marble top with this one of serpentine marble.
- Quick Find List
- Jean Antoine Houdon (1741 - 1828)
- Bust of Madame de Sérilly
- Bookmarkable URLThis portrait of Madame Anne-Marie-Louise Mégret de Sérilly was signed and dated by Jean-Antoine Houdon, the leading portrait artist of his time, in 1782.
Born into a humble family, Houdon manifested great artistic talent from a young age. He won the opportunity to train at the French Academy in Rome where he was from 1764 to 1768. Here he studied anatomy on dissected bodies (a practice that gave him a superior anatomical knowledge that would prove invaluable in his work, particularly as a portrait artist) and absorbed the lesson of classical sculpture which would strongly influence him throughout his career.
Houdon was happy to work for the art market and produced copies and variants of his most successful models, often in different materials. It is therefore not surprising that three versions of this bust exist: the others are today in Chicago and Minneapolis.
Born in 1762, Anne-Marie-Louise Thomas de Pange de Domangeville belonged to a family which had only recently been ennobled. However, no expense was spared in her education in order to equip her with all the skills and knowledge deemed necessary for a lady of the high society.
In 1779, she married Antoine-Jean-François Mégret de Sérilly, who held an important office at court. Her life was marked by extremely dramatic events: her husband went bankrupt in 1788 and the family had to move outside of Paris. After the Revolution, in 1794, she was arrested with her husband and brother with the accusation of having conspired to assist the escape attempt of Louis XVI the previous year. Only the claim that she was pregnant spared her the execution, allowing her to take advantage of the fall of Robespierre and the end of the Terror shortly after. After her escape from prison, she tried to reclaim possession of the wealth once belonging to her late husband and married again twice without luck: both her husbands died of illness shortly after the marriage and she herself contracted smallpox in 1799 dying aged just thirty-seven.
When the bust was made, Mme de Sérilly was only nineteen and at the height of her famed beauty here enhanced by the turn of the head and the sensuous lock of hair falling on her bare skin. Always attentive to the psychological characterisation of his sitters, Houdon does not fail to also convey the personality of Mme de Sérilly: her intent gaze suggests a woman of intelligence, clearly aware of her beauty and status.
Houdon was one of the sculptors Lord Hertford most appreciated as he owned no less than seven works by him, although only two today remain in our collection (see also S25, Portrait of Mme Victoire de France).
- Equestrian armour
- Possibly Ulrich Rämbs , Armourer
- Germany, partially Landshut
- c. 1480
- Bookmarkable URLThough probably assembled and partly restored in the nineteenth century, this impressive display serves to show something of the splendour and elegance of the German ‘Gothic’ style of armour, with fluted surfaces and boldly cusped borders. This ‘field’ armour (i.e. armour for war) is recorded as having come from the Castle of Hohenaschau in the Tyrol, dynastic home of the von Freyberg family, whose armoury was dispersed in the early 1860s. Fifteenth-century plate armour is of the greatest rarity; although in this case that for the man is heavily composite, the horse armour (barding) is relatively homogenous and is in remarkably good condition.
- European Arms and Armour - 15th Century
- François Boucher (1703 - 1770)
- Madame de Pompadour
- Bookmarkable URLAfter her relationship with Louis XV became platonic in about 1750, Madame de Pompadour commissioned a series of works of art with friendship and fidelity as their central theme. The Wallace Collection’s portrait, probably the last Boucher painted of his patron, evokes these ideals by its inclusion of the sculpture of Friendship consoling Love (recalling Pigalle) and in the presence of Madame de Pompadour’s pet spaniel, Inès.
- Snuff box
- Jean Ducrollay (c. 1710 - 1787) , Goldsmith
- Paris, France
- Bookmarkable URLThis scallop-shaped snuffbox is enamelled en plein (the enamel is painted directly onto the box) with radiating peacock’s feathers. The rim of the lid is chased with ribbon-tied reeds. When opened in order to allow the taking of snuff, the lid shows the full peacock’s tail in full upright glory, unlike most snuffboxes which when opened show the lid’s decoration upside down.
This magnificent box was one of many owned by the duc d’Aumont, the First Gentleman of the Bedchamber to King Louis XV and a well known as a connoisseur of art. Valued at 360 livres on the Duc’s death, it actually sold for more than double the estimated value which indicates that the box must have been recognised, even in 1782, as a great example of goldsmith’s work, although the fashion for boxes of this shape had long since passed.
The enameller of the superb and delicate peacock feathers is sadly unknown. Ducrollay is known to have employed several enamellers to decorate his boxes. Some signed their work, or worked in a style that was recognisable to their contemporaries, including Le Sueur, Hamelin, Liot and Aubert, but the style of this particular enamelled work defies attribution. None of these craftsmen is known to have been working as early as 1744 and the only enameller whose name is known from this period is the elusive Joaguet (see G2) but the style of enamelling attributed to him does not correspond to that on this box. It is however, a tour de force of the enameller’s art which has contributed to the creation of one of the most spectacular, and arguably the most famous, gold box of the eighteenth century.
Snuffboxes played an important role in fashion and self-promotion, in diplomacy and, in the 19th century, in collecting. Often they were used as a currency for their monetary values and the status they could embody. Their practical purpose was often secondary – they were highly valued as art objects in their own right. Gold boxes were a barometer of the taste of the time and exemplify the skills of not only goldsmiths, but also enamellers, lapidaries and miniature painters.
- Peter Paul Rubens (1577 - 1640)
- The Rainbow Landscape
- c. 1636
- Bookmarkable URLThis painting represents a view from Rubens’s manor house, Het Steen, over
the surrounding countryside. The fifty-eight- year-old Rubens purchased Het
Steen, situated between Brussels and Antwerp, in 1635 for his retirement and
around a year later painted this view and its companion piece, A View of Het Steen in the Early Morning, now at the National Gallery, London. Both were painted not on commission but for the artist’s own pleasure, and remained in his collection until his death. Both express his love for the landscape of Brabant.
The Rainbow Landscape is a homage to the Netherlandish tradition of landscape painting with its elevated ‘bird’s eye’ perspective and the use of distinct zones of colour to create broad spatial divisions. Peasants and milkmaids are shown returning from the fields, driving home the cattle and gathering the hay. Although not a classical, pastoral landscape in the tradition of Poussin or Claude, it is in its own way highly idealised. The rainbow recalls the covenant between God and Man after the flood, whilst the harvest can be
interpreted as Man’s just rewards for his labours.
In the eighteenth century, The Rainbow Landscape and its companion piece
were in the Balbi collection in Genoa, from where they were bought in 1803
by William Buchanan and sent to London. Het Steen in the Early Morning
was acquired by Sir George Beaumont, who later left it to the National Gallery. When The Rainbow Landscape was put up for sale in 1856, Sir Charles Eastlake tried to purchase it for the National Gallery. He was decisively outbid by the 4th Marquess of Hertford, who paid 4,550 guineas for it. He never saw the painting, which remained in London while he lived in Paris.
- Attributed to André-Charles Boulle (1642 - 1732)
- c. 1700
- Bookmarkable URLThis grand wardrobe is similar to another in the Wallace Collection (F62) . The main purpose of the piece was for display, but it was also fitted with shelves for storage purposes. The figurative, gilt-bronze mounts on the centre of the doors represent Apollo and Daphne and Apollo flaying Marsyas, mythological stories derived from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Boulle himself was a compulsive collector and owned a series of drawings after the Metamorphoses by Raphael, destroyed in his workshop fire of 1720.
In a declaration of 1700 Boulle declared that he had nine wardrobes in his workshop, so it is likely that the production of such pieces was quite considerable.
This wardrobe was once in the collection of the Duke of Buckingham at Stowe House. The interior was lined with peach blossom silk and fitted with gilt-bronze brackets and hooks to hold the clothes of Queen Victoria when she visited in 1845, three years before the 4th Marquess purchased the wardrobe.
- Boulle Cabinet Furniture
- Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732 - 1806)
- The Swing
- Bookmarkable URLThe Swing is Fragonard's best-known painting, encapsulating for many the finesse, humour and joie de vivre of the Rococo. No other work better demonstrates his ability to combine erotic licence with a visionary feeling for nature. According to the poet Collé, the history painter Doyen was commissioned by an unnamed ‘gentleman of the Court’ to paint his young mistress on a swing, pushed by a bishop with himself admiring her legs from below. Fragonard, who became well-known for his erotic genre-pictures, proved better suited to paint the work, in which the impudent reference to the church has been omitted, leaving the girl as the main focus, delicious in her froth of pink silk, poised mid-air tantalizingly beyond the reach of both her elderly seated admirer and her excited young lover.
- Wine cooler
- Workshop of Flaminio Fontana (active between: 1571-1591)
- Urbino, Italy
- Bookmarkable URLProbably made for Cosimo I de’Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, this monumental wine cooler bears his device of a turtle with a mast on its back, illustrating his motto, Festina lente (Hasten slowly). The inscription on its base indicates that it was made in Flaminio Fontana’s maiolica workshop in Urbino in 1574; Cosimo died in April 1574. Wine coolers were kept on or below a buffet, filled with ice, snow or cold water, to keep wine cool during meals. The decoration of this exceptionally large cooler combines white-ground grotesques, vigorously sculpted monsters and a Roman naval battle scene derived, unusually, from a drawing. The water-based theme was appropriate to a wine cooler.
- Antoine Watteau (1684 - 1721)
- Voulez vous triompher des Belles?
- c. 1714 - 1717
- Bookmarkable URLIn this painting, Watteau fused the idyllic vision of the pastoral with elements of the theatre. The painting is a beautiful example of Watteau's approach to add actors off-stage - half-way between their stage persona and their proper self - to his peaceful and idealised outdoor scenes. Harlequin can be identified by his lozenged suit and black mask. Some of the figures in the background wear seventeenth-century white ruffs and might also be actors. The woman in the foreground has some times been identified as Columbine, a character without a specific costume. Theatre, music and conversation are the main ingredients of the Fête galante. In the background, the lutist and the woman holding a score are about to start making music. Theatre and music imply social interaction and role playing, but Watteau always avoids to create an obvious narrative.The painting plays with the openness and ambiguity of the situation.
The painting can be dated to c. 1714-1717 on stylistic grounds. Watteau must have painted the small work over an extended period of time. An earlier phase can be seen with the naked eye: Watteau changed the outline and pattern of the dress worn by the seated woman in the foreground. The likely model for the composition, Adriaen van der Werff's "Shepherd and Shepherdess" of 1696, a more idealised pastoral scene, is also at the Wallace Collection (P165).
Watteau's painting was engraved by Henri Simon Thomassin in 1725. The present title - the first line of a poem that was used with the engraving - does not go back to the painter.