This new book offers a portrait of a perfectly preserved English country house and the magnificent art collection of its former owner, Sir Robert Walpole (1676–1745), Britain’s first prime minister. Walpole amassed a dazzling array of Old Masters, including paintings by Van Dyck, Poussin, Rubens, and Rembrandt, and hired celebrated decorator William Kent to design the interiors of Houghton Hall specifically to showcase them. But when Walpole died, his family was shocked to find that he had amassed huge debt, and were forced to sell the treasured collection—to Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. Now, these masterpieces are returning to Houghton Hall. Essays uncover the wonders of Walpole’s collection and trace its journey to the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, to which most of the works now belong.
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Larissa Dukelskaya is curator of English Prints at the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. John Harris is a curator, historian of architecture, gardens and architectural drawings, and the author of more than 25 books. Andrew Moore is keeper of art at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Norwich, England. Thierry Morel is former director of the Hermitage Foundation UK and a member of the Advisory Board of the Hermitage Foundation USA.
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