Paris Back From U.K. Sojurn
Published: January 23, 2014 (Issue # 1794)
“The Judgment of Paris,” a monumental canvas by Italian Carlo Maratta dated circa 1708, had been installed in Tsarskoye Selo for more than 50 years before receiving a new lease on life thanks to an unprecedented exhibition that brought it renewed attention.
Once part of the collection of Sir Robert Walpole, Great Britain’s first Prime Minister, the painting had hung high above the main staircase at The Catherine Palace in Pushkin since entering the palace collection in 1960, following the completion of post-war restoration work.
Sent to the U.K. as part of the “Houghton Revisited” exhibition, the painting is now back in St. Petersburg and has been placed in a new location.
Masterpieces Take Summer Vacation
Walpole’s collection was one of the most celebrated art collections of its time and included works by Van Dyck, Poussin, Maratta, Rubens and Rembrandt, which are today held by the State Hermitage Museum, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, the State Tsarskoye Selo Museum and other important Russian museums.
In 1779, Walpole’s descendants sold 200 paintings from the collection to Catherine the Great, for which the Russian Empress paid £40,550. Centuries later, the canvasses from Russia’s leading museums were returned to the family estate of the collection’s founder.
“This landmark project highlights the historic ties between Russia and Great Britain as well as the excellent taste of two remarkable 18th-century leaders,” said Mark Stadler, CEO of HSBC Russia, the company supporting the exhibition.
The idea for the exhibition came about when Thierry Morel, former director of the Hermitage Foundation (U.K.) and current member of executive board of the Hermitage Foundation (U.S.), discovered the plan for the original hanging at Houghton secreted in the Hermitage archives. The exhibition that developed from this chance encounter was dedicated to the 250th anniversary of Catherine the Great’s accession to the throne.
From May to September 2013, for the first time in over 200 years, all of the paintings were reassembled in the original setting of Houghton Hall.
“I would like to thank the State Hermitage Museum and other Russian museums for providing an opportunity to show this collection to the British public. This may be the first time when such a privilege has been granted to a private house,” said the Marquess of Cholmondeley, a direct descendant of Walpole and current inhabitant of Houghton Hall.
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