In 2013 Houghton staged a ground-breaking reconstruction of Sir Robert Walpole’s picture collection, which had been sold in its entirety to Catherine the Great in 1779. The exhibition was a collaboration with the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburgh, and attracted 115,000 visitors over nearly six months.
The Houghton Hall was designed to house Walpole’s prized collection of Old Master paintings, and the magnificent interiors and furnishings designed by William Kent are also still intact. The paintings in the Houghton Revisited exhibition werehung as close as possible to their original positions in the State Rooms, bringing them back to the splendour of more than two centuries ago.
In 1779 the family of Sir Robert Walpole, Britain's first prime minister, sold his remarkable art collection to Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. More than two centuries later, these masterpieces, rarely seen outside Russia since that time, are returning to Houghton Hall, the great house built by Walpole. This handsome book illustrates these superlative works hanging once again in William Kent's magnificent interiors. Thierry Morel uncovers the wonders of Walpole's collection, which includes paintings by Van Dyck, Poussin, Rubens and Rembrandt, and traces its journey to the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, to which most of the works now belong. Other essays explore Walpole's artistic tastes and collecting habits, and his beautiful house, one of the finest Palladian buildings in England.