Old Masters give Strawberry Hill House a sense of how it was in Horace Walpole’s time

Over 50 Old Master paintings on long term loan from Dulwich Picture Gallery – and a further eight works from a private English collection – will help to recreate the atmosphere of Strawberry Hill House as it would have appeared over 250 years ago.

The relationship between Strawberry Hill House and Dulwich Picture Gallery began in 2011 with the long-term loan of the portrait of Dorothy, Viscountess Townshend, c.1718 by Charles Jervas. Dorothy Walpole (1628-1726) was the sister of Sir Robert Walpole, Horace’s father. This portrait of his great aunt has been hung in its original position in the Great Parlour, where Walpole displayed the portraits of both his family and some of his closest friends.

Among the paintings from the latest loan is a set of fifteen British monarchs, assembled by the founder of Dulwich College, Edward Alleyn. These include Henry VIII, c.1618, Queen Anne Boleyn, c.1618 and Queen Mary, c.1618. These royal portraits have been hung in the Holbein Chamber, reflecting Walpole’s passion for history and its protagonists, which also influenced the overall arrangement of the artworks throughout the house. As an antiquarian and writer possessed of a vivid imagination, Walpole had a deep interest in royal and historical figures, which was reflected throughout his collection, plus the interiors and architecture of the House. The ceiling in the Holbein Chamber is a copy of the Queen’s Dressing Room in Windsor Castle, while the one in the Library is decorated with heraldic emblems, mythical beasts, coats of arms and images of mounted crusaders, all of which reflective his various interests with the medieval period.

Dr Silvia Davoli, Strawberry Hill House Curator says: “Our collaboration with Dulwich Picture Gallery offers us the unique opportunity to borrow a substantial number of paintings that are very similar in style, period and schools to those once collected by Horace Walpole and it is thanks to these artworks that the rooms of Strawberry Hill finally appear to us in all their glory, much as they did in Walpole’s time.”

Included in general admission when the House reopens from Sunday 29 January 2023.

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Strawberry Hill House is internationally famous as Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic Revival architecture.