Having visited a small collection of 'wonderful things' last week, today's visit was on a much grander scale. Mary, just back from Scotland, had not visited the Wallace Collection before, so we met there at 10.00 (when it opens) and spent a very pleasant couple of hours just getting an impression of what a family of obsessive collectors can achieve over a couple of centuries.
The Great Gallery is closed at the moment, so some walls in other rooms are fairly crowded. But they have hung a few of the best known works in the temporary exhibition space downstairs, so we were able to look at the Dance to the Music of Time and the Laughing Cavalier in comparative emptiness. There are pictures of every picture (if you follow me) on the website, so I did not try to take photos of the paintings.
The furniture and other decorative arts are, however, what makes the Wallace Collection stand out from other treasure houses of art, so we stood amazed before marquetry, Sevres porcelain, jasper and bluejohn jugs, urns and vases, and clocks. This one was presented to the new Louis XVI, and shows him getting advice from Minerva about how to rule well. Poor man, if he had refrained from attempts at reform, he might have survived for a while longer.
Then there are the Maiolica plates; having recently seen The Last Days of Troy at the Globe, I enjoyed the Judgement of Paris, though I don't think I would want to eat my meals off all those buxom goddesses.
I also took Mary to the armouries, or those galleries which are open at the moment, since arms and armour was the particular interest of Sir Richard Wallace himself.
(Why are some galleries closed? Because until the Great Gallery is sorted, ready to reopen in mid September, other galleries are needed for storage).
With so much to see, we did not have time for the Canalettos, but had a good look at the Dutch galleries, as well as taking in a bevy of pretty Fragonards and Watteaus.
To complete the experience, I insisted that Mary should admire the loos, surely the loveliest in London, and she treated me to a coffee in the restaurant which occupies the former central courtyard.
It is a wonderful place, so if you haven't ever visited, do; and if you have, go again!