The Wallace Collection: 18th-Century French Luxury in London with Francesca Herrick - Context Travel

The Wallace Collection: 18th-Century French Luxury in London with Francesca Herrick


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The Wallace Collection offers an excellent opportunity to understand how French national identity became synonymous with luxury production in design and the decorative arts. This conversation will explore bespoke commissions by leading artists and craftspeople who flourished under the reigns of Louis XIV, XV and XVI.

The Wallace Collection in London is home to many different treasures and reflects the tastes of five generations of the Seymour-Conway family. This seminar led by art historian Francesca Herrick focuses on its outstanding collection of French decorative arts and furnishings, which was acquired by the third Marquess of Hertford (1777–1842) and his son the fourth Marquess (1800–1870).

Those fortunate enough to travel to France’s former royal residences may have been struck by how sparsely furnished so many of them are. The French Revolution of 1789 resulted in pieces of exceptional history and quality coming on the open market, including items from the royal châteaux. The British upper classes, while somewhat shaken by the events, saw a unique opportunity to greatly enrich their own homes and collections. The Wallace Collection was given to the British nation in 1897 by Richard Wallace, the illegitimate son of the fourth Marquess, who shared his father’s love of French culture. He also bequeathed the property Hertford House, which has been carefully restored to maintain the feel of a private collection. It remains one of the most important cultural bequests ever made in Europe.

We will begin by exploring pieces from the reign of Louis XIV (the Sun King) who centralized control of the arts and ensured that France’s national identity would be forever tied to luxury production. Pieces by his leading cabinet maker André-Charles Boulle are theatrical and monumental, but also show the astonishing delicacy of technique. We will then move onto the Rococo delights of Louis XV, with highly imaginative pieces of Sèvres porcelain, patronized by the king and his mistress Madame de Pompadour. Finally, we will discuss the more classical and restrained designs commissioned by Marie Antoinette, which she tried in vain to safeguard as the revolution took hold. Led by an expert in interior design, this seminar is set to deepen participants’ understanding of the luxurious Wallace Collection and the connection with the French eighteenth century.

Francesca Herrick is a London based lecturer who has expanded her teaching practice beyond her Art History degrees to encompass the history of interior design. This specialised subject is still an emergent area of scholarly study. In her academic role at KLC School of Design, Chelsea, she has found a rare opportunity to develop curriculums for graduate courses that combine historical and critical studies with more practical engagement with past design. She is also an educator for the Courtauld Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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