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Strawberry Hill House's Lost Treasures – an absolute 'must' to see!

Strawberry Hill House's Lost Treasures – an absolute 'must' to see!

The Gallery at Strawberry Hill House

The Teddington Society’s Peter Denton was completely captivated when he visited Strawberry Hill House’s fabulous Lost Treasures exhibition recently. Here’s why…

Now here’s a question for you. What do Cardinal Wolsey’s scarlet hat, a drowned cat, and a lock of Mary Tudor’s red hair have in common?

The straightforward answer is that they all belonged to Horace Walpole – and the exciting answer is that they’ve at last been brought together under one roof. Well, not the dead cat, of course, but you can certainly see the huge ceramic goldfish bowl in which Walpole’s moggy reached the end of the line on one fishing trip too many.

These, and hundreds more artefacts, have been reunited in their original setting to form a wonderful and unique exhibition at Strawberry Hill House, Walpole’s gothic pile in Waldegrave Road.

Horace Walpole (1717-97) was a politician, writer, historian, antiquarian, social commentator and passionate collector. After his death, his collection was disbanded and sold off. Only now, 176 years later, have many items been brought home, though only for a limited time – the exhibition, Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill: Masterpieces from Horace Walpole’s Collection, is open daily until 24th February.

If you haven’t yet been to Strawberry Hill House, seize the opportunity now because you’ll be doubly rewarded, not only by the house itself but also by the exhibition, which is simply stunning.

More than 150 works drawn from 55 collections across the world are on display, not least a magnificent wall-hung pendulum clock given by Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn on their wedding day. Then there’s an exquisite limewood cravat carved by Grinling Gibbons in the 17th century (and actually worn by Walpole when he received distinguished visitors), and a sublimely beautiful 16th century hunting horn made from copper, painted enamel and cow’s horn. It was created and signed by Léonard Limousin, the most famous French enameller of his generation.

Then there are the paintings. Oh, the paintings! Not only can we see Joshua Reynolds’ ravishing Portraits of the Ladies Waldegrave, but also a chilling portrait by William Hogarth of Sarah Malcolm, a 16th century serial killer, in her dank prison cell. On a happier note, Van Dyck’s capture of Margaret Smith is there too, as is a fine portrait of the 1st Duke of Buckingham by Peter Paul Rubens. Oh, and if stag beetles are your thing, feast your eyes on Albrecht Dürer’s drawing of the same.

My short review can’t remotely do justice to this fabulous display over two floors, because so much more besides is on show – miniatures, clocks, vases, statues, sculptures, chairs, manuscripts, a coat of armour belonging to a King of France, cabinets, coins, jewels and caskets. All of them in their original setting, and that’s what makes this presentation so exquisite, so classy, so unique. But suffice to say that locally, you’ll never see such a breathtaking, absorbing and eclectic exhibition as this. Go and see for yourself!

You can see a small selection of photos from the exhibition here

Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill House: Masterpieces from Horace Walpole’s Collection is open every day until February 24th at Strawberry Hill House, Waldegrave Road, TW1 4ST. Principal sponsor is J Stern & Co. Click here for tickets and details
♦ My grateful thanks to Bethan Wood of Strawberry Hill House for her much appreciated guided tour.

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