It was established in 1897 from the private collection mainly created by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford (1800-1870), who left it and the house to his illegitimate son Sir Richard Wallace (1818-1890), whose widow bequeathed the entire collection to the nation. The museum opened to the public in 1900 in Hertford House, Manchester Square, and remains there, housed in its entirety, to this day. A condition of the bequest was that no object ever leave the collection, even for loan exhibitions. Admission is free. It is a non-departmental public body.
The museum's collection numbers nearly 5,500 objects and is best known for its quality and breadth of eighteenth-century French paintings, Sèvres porcelain and French furniture.
The Wallace Collection also displays many other treasures, such as two paintings by Titian, four Rembrandts, three Rubenses, four Van Dycks, twenty-two Canalettos, nineteen Bouchers, masterpieces by Hooch, nine Teniers, Frans Hals, nine Murillos, two Velázquezes and paintings by Domenichino, Cima, Daddi, Reni, Rosa, Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds, Antoine Watteau, Nicholas Lancret, Jan Steen, Aelbert Cuyp and nine Guardis. The museum also holds a fine collection of arms and armour, featuring both European and Oriental objects, as well as displays of gold boxes, miniatures, sculpture and medieval and Renaissance works of art such as maiolica, glass, bronzes and Limoges enamels.
The works of art in the Collection comprise :
- Paintings,Watercolours and Drawings 775
- Furniture 528
- Ceramics 510
- European and Oriental Arms and Armour 2,370
- Sculpture 466
- Miniatures 334
- Medieval and Renaissance Works of Art 363
- Goldsmiths' Work 120
The Wallace Collection is split into six curatorial departments, Pictures & Miniatures, Ceramics, Arms & Armour, Objet d'Art, Furniture and Sculpture.
Pictures & Miniatures
The collection's Old Master paintings represent some of the finest works of art in the world, executed by most of the leading artists of their period. The paintings include important works from all periods between the fourteenth to the mid-nineteenth century.
The collection is particularly strong in Dutch and Flemish paintings of the seventeenth century and in eighteenth and nineteenth-century French paintings, though there are also outstanding works by English, Italian and Spanish artists. Strengths of the collection include examples by Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck, Canaletto, Gainsborough, François Boucher, Fragonard, Murillo, Titian, Poussin and Velázquez.
The inventory of pictures, watercolours and drawings comprises all the major European schools.
Paintings, drawing & watercolours from the Wallace Collection
- British, German, Spanish & Italian 151 paintings, 60 drawings
- French Nineteenth Century 134 paintings, 57 watercolours
- French before 1815 144 paintings, 8 drawings and watercolours
- Dutch 173 paintings, 2 drawings
- Flemish 48 paintings
- Borch, Gerard ter - 2 paintings;
- Cuyp, Aelbert - 6 paintings;
- Dou, Gerrit - 1 painting;
- Hals, Frans - 1 painting;
- Hobbema, Meyndert - 5 paintings;
- Hooch, Pieter de - 2 paintings;
- Metsu, Gabriel - 5 paintings;
- Ostade, Adriaen van - 2 paintings;
- Rembrandt van Rijn - 6 paintings;
- Ruisdael, Jacob van - 5 painting;
- Snyders, Frans - 1 painting;
- Steen, Jan - 5 paintings;
- Velde, Adriaen van de - 2 paintings;
- Velde, Willem van de...the Younger - 8 paintings;
- Weenix, Jan - 13 painting;
- Wouwerman, Philip - 6 paintings;
- Gainsborough, Thomas - 2 paintings;
- Hoppner, John - 1 painting;
- Landseer, Sir Edwin - 4 paintings;
- Lawrence, Thomas - 4 paintings;
- Reynolds, Joshua - 12 paintings;
- J.M.W. Turner - 4 paintings;
- Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger - 1 painting;
- Gossaert, Jan - 1 painting;
- Memling, Hans - 1 painting;
- Rubens, Peter Paul - 9 paintings;
- Teniers, David - 2 paintings;
- Van Dyck, Anthony - 4 paintings ;
- Boucher, François - 19 paintings;
- Champaigne, Philippe de - 4 paintings;
- Clouet, François - 2 paintings;
- Corot, Jean-Baptiste Camille - 1 painting;
- Delacroix, Eugène - 2 paintings;
- Delaroche, Hippolyte - 12 paintings;
- Dughet, Gaspard - 1 painting;
- Fragonard, Jean-Honoré - 1 painting;
- Gellée, Claude - 1 painting;
- Géricault, Théodore - 1 painting;
- Greuze, Jean-Baptiste - 19 paintings;
- Poussin, Nicolas - 1 painting;
- Rousseau, Théodore - 1 painting;
- Troy, Jean-François de - 2 paintings;
- Vernet, Claude-Joseph - 2 paintings;
- Vernet, Horace - 24 paintings;
- Watteau, Jean-Antoine - 9 paintings;
- Canaletto, (Giovanni Antonio Canal) - 19 paintings;
- Cima, da Conegliano - 2 paintings;
- Crivelli, Carlo - 1 painting;
- Guardi, Francesco - 9 paintings;
- Rosa, Salvator - 1 painting;
- Sarto, Andrea del - 1 painting;
- Titian, (Tiziano Vecelli) - 1 painting;
- (Domenichino) - 1 painting;
- Murillo, Bartolomé-Esteban - 8 paintings;
- Velázquez, Diego - 2 paintings;
There are fine examples of porcelain by the greatest of makers, including Meissen and one of the worlds greatest collections of Sèvres.
The Wallace Collection contains one of the richest and most distinguished collections of eighteenth-century Sèvres porcelain in the world. It includes 137 vases, 80 tea wares, 67 useful wares, 3 biscuit figures and 130 plaques (mostly on furniture), and was acquired by the Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace between c. 1802 and c. 1875.
The Wallace Collection holds one of the most important collections of French furniture anywhere in the world. Totalling more than five hundred pieces, the collection consists largely of eighteenth-century French furniture but also includes some significant pieces of nineteenth-century French furniture, as well as interesting Italian furniture and a few English and German pieces. The collection ranges from cabinet furniture, much of which is veneered with brass and turtleshell marquetry (commonly known as 'Boulle' marquetry) or with wood marquetry, to seat furniture, clocks and barometers, gilt-bronze items including mounted porcelain and hardstones, mantelpieces, mirrors, boxes and pedestals. One highlight of the collection is the major collection of furniture attributed to André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732), perhaps the best-known cabinet-maker ever to have lived.
A few years ago the inner courtyard was given a glass roof and now contains a restaurant.